AFib and breast cancer

I've had persistent AFib since last December after a couple of years of undiagnosed paroxysmal AF, accompanied by high blood pressure, which was treated successfully. I have had two unsuccessful cardiofversions in January and was scheduled for an ablation in March. I'm on a full range of meds including Pradaxa, verapamil, digoxin, ramipril and omeprazole.

A routine mammogram in December showed up a suspicious area and unfortunately this week I have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer so surgery for that has to take priority over the ablation. I'm 52 and very active, leading an outdoor lifestyle riding and caring for my horses after a legal career that ended last year. I am pretty shattered to find out that I have two major things wrong with me at the same time and very worried that the cancer treatment will delay the ablation for long enough to reduce the chances of success significantly. Has anyone else had / got cancer and AFib and can offer me any words of advice?

21 Replies

  • I'm sorry I can't help with your question, but do send very good wishes for successful treatment of your breast cancer (and AF too, of course).


  • Oh dear so sorry you are having all this to deal with what a shock for you. The good news is you are young fit and sound extremely capable so you have tools to see you through and back to full health.

    I can't help with your specific question but guess you will get responses from others who can. All I can say is that your medics will liaise with each other to give you the best support throughput. My mother in law is currently going through kidney failure treatment and invasive skin cancer and her medics are working closely to ensure her care is co-ordinated throughout. You will have the support of a multidisciplinary team who will meet regularly to review your needs and plan treatments to best aid your journey back to full health.

    Keep strong and take all the assistance you are offered to get you back to being yourself, happy and free from worry.

    Thinking of you, big hugs. X

  • Hello and welcome to the forum. I'm sorry you have so much to cope with at the moment and you have come amongst a group of helpful, caring people - many of whom have other health issues in addition to AF.

    I am one of the fortunate ones, with only AF to contend with, but we are all here to support each other and I'm sure other posters will be able to comment on your specific question. I just wanted to say hello and say you are amongst friends.

  • I had prostate cancer but three years after my successful ablation. In fact it is questionable that they would have operated on my prostate had I still had AF and gone for the less successful (for me) radiotherapy in the first instance. That I later had radio and hormone therapy to mop up some escaping cells was only as a result of the operation showing it had spread. Just got my six monthly blood test back today and still clear nearly six years down the line. Excuse me whilst I dance about a bit.

  • Can't help re cancer but I had two gynae ops with AF after the EP said it was safe . Plus had benign tumour removed from heart and surgical ablation during open heart surgery. Sure the teams will prioritise for the best outcomes. Wishing you well whatever they decide. We are all here to listen should you need us

  • Thank you everyone it means a lot. It certainly puts everything in perspective to go from very healthy to a bit knackered so quickly. I am in very good hands with the team at Northampton general, who have all been amazing so far.

  • Sorry to hear this, I can't help re the cancer situation but just want to wish you well. Please let us know how you get on.


  • I didn't really have the two at the same time, although my heart was off the rails occasionally when the cancer was eventually diagnosed. It was, I think, just tachycardia. I was 45 at the time and my children were 6 and 7 so it wasn't the best. I'm now 70 and I think the cancer made much less of an impact on my life than AF has done, save for the fact that it makes me feel very lucky to have lived so long. Life is a little bit sweeter and I value each day a little more.

  • Thank you Relim, that is a very good way of looking at it. x

  • It might be worth discussing the situation with both your teams and with your GP. A quickie ablation might get you sorted while some drug could hold the cancer at bay. I don't know about the Praxada though. I wasn't anticoagulated at all when I had my first ablation in 2011 but I think a lot of EPs like patients to take it for a few weeks afterwards.

  • HI there, I have had breast cancer and have AF. Breast cancer was diagnosed on the 9th Jan 2014 and the next day I was an emergency admission to hospital with heart failure and later rold I had AF. The Heart failure was the fault of the GP's at my practice symtoms had been going on for ages but not being taken notice of. Long story.

    Anyway the breast cancer I was lucky with as it was spotted early and I only had to have a small part of my breast removed. My cancer surgery was postponed for six months as the cancer consultant wanted my heart condition sorted first before operating and I was given the drug Letrozole which can reduce small tumors. Your diagnosis seems more agressive than mine so it may be that they will wish to sort this first, I think my heart problems were too unstable to go ahead quickly. As others have said both specialists should liase with you to work out the best plan for you.

    The cancer op for me was a breeze, I understand that a lighter anesthectic was used and I was very carefully monitored. When I came round I recovered from the op very quickly was only in for one night. I had no sickness after the anesthetic and my main thoughts were of food - I was starving, could not wait for the evening meal. My AF behaved throughout the Op and afterwards. I had radiotherapy about 3 months after the op, three weeks every day (not weekends) and this was tiring (it is one of the side effects and takes a few months to get over. So it will all depend on your consultants to assess you, if your cancer is urgent then I would think that would come first, and obviously if you have to have chemo that will make a difference. My two consultants did have meetings about me, so hopefully yours will as well and discuss a timetable with.

    Best wishes with the outcome and wish you better soon.


  • Thank you Cassie, you sound like you really went through it, it must have been quite frightening for you at the time. My AF is persistent and I can more or less tolerate it as the drugs keep the heart rate down and I now I've changed from awful bisprolol I can still do the normal sort of physical work outside albeit slower. My heart is structurally normal thankfully. The EP at Harefield was very clear with me that any cancer has to be dealt with first before ablation but at this stage I don't know whether it will be an excision or a mastectomy, it will depend on the results of a second biopsy. I am obviously hoping to avoid chemo and just have radiotherapy but it will depend on what they find as a result of the surgery. All a bit worrying due to these uncertainties at the moment. Thank you again for sharing your experience, it is a help.

  • I have persistant AF as well. With mine they hoped to keep the tumour from spreading by taking the Letrozole (it worked and still taking the damn stuff - affects the joints, just more aches and pains to go with my arthitis) It is best to get the cancer sorted early if you can so that hopefully it does not spread to the lymp nodes. They took samples of mine and it had not spread that far which was good news.

    Best of luck with your treatment - it is now just over three years since cancer diagnoses and (touch wood) still all clear.


  • Thanks. I hope it isn't in my lymph nodes but will only find out as a result of the operation. At least things are moving very quickly. I've spoken to my cardiologist who will liaise with the oncologist as some of the heart drugs will have to change when I have the oncology treatment.

  • Sounds like my story. I was scheduled for ablation in 2013 and actually in hospital when they found a large tumor in my breast. No ablation (well, not for the heart...), but operation and chemo. I had PAF, so a little different. But I still think it must not mean that an ablation will not be successful in your case later on. Also important-radiotherapy and chemo both might also have affected a possible good outcome you might have had from an ablation before them. Just take things in your stride as they come.

    There is also a possibility that both illnesses might be caused by the same trigger. Might be some hormonal imbalance for ex (thyroid can do both, estrogen can do both). And taking care of your body might even make something get better with the heart.

    I wish you all the best and that your results are the best thta can be hoped.

  • Very interesting Nettecologne, though it must have been a massive shock for you. Lots of sense in what you say. I have thought about thyroid and oestrogen. The cancer is definitely the sort that responds to oestrogen. A friend who is experienced in advising people holistically has been overhauling my diet and suggesting lifestyle changes to give me the best chance for the right results for both problems. It can only be good for me.

  • Hi,

    I just want to wish you a good result and effective treatment. I had invasive breast cancer picked up in a mammogram in 2008, treated by mastectomy and lymph node clearance and then 5 years of aromatase inhibitor (hormone) treatment. I have been clear since but developed AF immediately after my second mastectomy in 2015 which was done for symmetry and prevention. I think that the aromatase inhibitors are implicated in AF development. I have found the AF harder to cope with even though it's paroxysmal. I am no longer fit enough to keep my horses (Irish Sports Horse and a companion Shetland pony) as my stamina is much reduced.

    Best Wishes for effective treatment and a good outcome

    Regards, Jane

  • Thank you Jane, I am sorry you had to give up your horses, that must be awful. I remember when I had paroxysmal AF I couldn't do much at all during episodes but now it has become persistent AF my body has adapted and it copes with it quite well so I still do a lot of the care and ride every day. I will also have to take anti oestrogen drugs for several years and i hope that they don't make the AF worse. The cancer has been such a shock though and I will definitely have to have a mastectomy, which is a mind boggling thought. The prognosis is currently good though so getting on with it is the best option. Thank you again. Rachel

  • Mind boggling-yes, I understand and been there, done that. I didn't have reconstruction up to now and yet feel life is good sometimes:)

    Take care to get real nice bras though, I fought for every one of them, as most mastectomy bras are just "old women stuff". Over here in Germany you have special editions every 6 months which have to be preordered though by the Medical Supply Shop. And they do not care, as they sell their white and beige stuff anyway. So I contacted the firms and looked online and so I always know in advance what bra to preorder (mostly Anita Care, which you do get in Britain too, the models Miss Ribbon and Malia are my favourites)). I got black and white spots, red with white spots, emerald and blue with tiger stripes and many more. And yes, it does count.

    And take care your prothesis isn't too lighweight. My first one was and bras kept creeping up. Second one was heavier and much better.

  • Oh goodness, I haven't even thought about new bras for post reconstruction yet. I don't like the sound of your standard old women stuff, though! Thank you for your recommendations.

  • Sorry, I was not talking about post reconstruction bras. I meant mastectomy bras where you have pockets for the prothesis.

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