Coping with a diagnosis of lung cancer is difficult enough, without hearing that the risk of stroke may be increased. But a new study suggests that such is the case for people living with lung cancer - and the risk is most pronounced early on after the diagnosis of lung cancer is made.
Researchers looked at over 150,000 people in Taiwan with and without lung cancer, and compared the risk of having a stroke. People with lung cancer were 1.5 times more likely to experience a stroke than those without lung cancer.
It's important to note that there are two major kinds of stroke. One type is an ischemic stroke - meaning that a clot has formed in a blood vessel preventing the flow of blood to a particular area of the brain. The other form is called a hemorrhagic stroke - in which damage is done when bleeding occurs in an area of the brain. While both types of stroke appear to be increased in people with lung cancer, hemorrhagic strokes were increased more than ischemic strokes.
In women, the risk of stroke peaked within 4 to 6 months after diagnosis, and decreased after 2 years. In men, the greatest risk was during the first 3 months after diagnosis and declined after 1 year.
So what does this mean for you? Speaking personally, I know that sometimes when we are going through treatment for cancer, everything else is shifted to the back burner. If you have other risk factors for a stroke, such as high blood pressure, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor, and make sure that your other medical conditions are under good control during your treatment.
Chen, P. et al. Lung Cancer and Incidence of Stroke: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Stroke. 2011 Sep 8. (Epub ahead of print).