Dying Of A Broken Heart Is Real, Scientists Say

A new study has found one in six people with broken heart syndrome also developed cancer.

Broken heart syndrome -- also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy -- is a temporary condition brought on by a stressful situation, like losing a loved one.

Symptoms of broken heart syndrome, like chest pain and shortness of breath, are curable. The condition can often reverse itself in days or weeks.

In a study of 1600 people, researchers found "a substantial number of [broken heart syndrome] patients show an association with malignancy", or cancer.

Of those respondents with cancer, nearly 90 percent were women.

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While the study established a link between Takotsubo syndrome and cancer it didn't find causation, The Heart Foundation's Cia Connell told 10 daily.

"There may be other explanations, for example, Takotsubo generally occurs at an older age (the average age in this study was late 60s) and the risk of cancer also increases with age.

"The study adds to our understanding of Takotsubo syndrome, but further research is required before making any changes to practice," Connell said.

Broken heart syndrome is triggered by an intense physical or emotional event like a loved one's death, a shock medical diagnosis, or even a surprise party.

Diagram of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy a.k.a. broken heart syndrome. Image: St. Vincent's Hospital

It was first identified as a condition in 1990, when doctors noticed people with heart attack symptoms had none of the signature blood clots that cause them.

The condition is different to a heart attack in that arteries are not blocked. Instead, there is a brief disruption of the heart's normal pumping function in one area.

The study's lead author, Dr. Christian Templin, said the new research should raise awareness that broken heart syndrome "should be considered in patients undergoing cancer diagnosis or treatment who experience chest pain or shortness of breath."

Similarly, “patients with broken heart syndrome might benefit if screened for cancer to improve their overall survival,” Templin said.

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