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Heart Health

When you look for cancer, you might find heart disease

December 01, 2017

Screening for lung and breast cancer may reveal information about the health of your heart's arteries.

 Image: © Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Screening tests for two of the most common forms of cancer involve detailed x-ray images of the chest. Growing evidence suggests that these tests — chest computed tomography (CT) scans and mammograms — may also offer clues about a person's risk of heart disease.

"Both doctors and their patients should be aware that the low-dose CT scans used to find lung cancer can also detect plaque in the arteries of the heart," says Dr. Ron Blankstein, a cardiovascular imaging specialist and preventive cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. CT scans take a series of rapid-fire x-rays in seconds. Combined, the images allow doctors to "see" structures inside the body.

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