Researchers have been trying to determine ways to prevent the complications in the breast cancer survivors to reduce the occurrence of a relapse. The breast cancer treatments that include radiation therapy and chemotherapy target the malignant cells in the breast tissues and destroy them.
However, these treatments also affect the healthy cells, which results in an increase in the risk of leukemia in the future, the researchers said. They are conducting studies to determine the factors that may cause an increased risk of leukemia after breast cancer treatment.
The possible factors that are believed to contribute to the risk of secondary malignancy are the family history of cancer and an inherited gene mutation.
The research involved a follow-up of 88 breast cancer survivors who were treated for breast cancer and developed leukemia at a later stage. It was found that the women had a family history of cancer, which suggested a genetic susceptibility to develop cancer like leukemia.
About 20 percent of the women in this study group had an inherited gene mutation, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.
“This is expected to enable the scientists in determining how these genes affect or modify the breast cancer treatment-related leukemia risk. It will also help to understand whether any specific treatment causes a higher risk based on the inherited genetic make-up of a woman,” said Dr. Jane Churpek, the study leader from the University of Chicago.
This will help the oncologists to have a patient-specific conversation about the potential risks of radiation and chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.
It may be difficult to determine the exact role of breast cancer treatment in the development of leukemia. Hence, it is important that the breast cancer patients are uniquely positioned so that the true frequency and the causative factors of subsequent leukemia can be ascertained.
American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Cancer Society have issued guidelines for improving the survival rates of breast cancer patients. The breast cancer survivors are advised to undergo routine physical exams and mammograms to check for any new tumor. They do not need additional lab tests or imaging unless there are significant symptoms suggesting that a malignancy may have returned.
The guidelines include recommendations in five key areas, which include:
- Regular surveillance for the recurrence of malignancy by physical examination and the patient’s cancer history
- Regular mammographic screening
- Management and assessment of the psychosocial and long-term physical impact of breast cancer treatment
- Care coordination and practical implications
- Promotion of a healthy lifestyle
With regular follow-up and monitoring, the occurrence of complications following breast cancer treatment is expected to decline. This will increase the life expectancy of breast cancer survivors and also improve their quality of life.
1. Leukemia Risk After Breast Cancer Treatment
2. ASCO and ACS Issue Guideline on Breast Cancer Survivor Care
3. Organizations issue joint guidelines for breast cancer survivors
Featured Photo: HealthyWomen.org
Dr. Adem Gunes has built the world’s largest database of scientifically tested natural substances with proven effects in cancer treatments. In 2009, he was appointed as the Chief Physician of ProLife Clinic in Innsbruck, Austria, and played a key role in the establishment of the research laboratory. He is also the co-founder of the first Austrian hyperthermia center. Now, Dr. Adem works closely with cancer patients from around the world (including Germany, Thailand, Dubai) to recommend them a complementary cancer clinic or to create a personalized care plan for patients to follow at home.