As if the experience of battling the dreaded breast cancer is not enough to cause anguish and emotional torture, recent study findings show that women who were breast cancer survivors are also at risk of getting leukemia as a complication after treatment. According to the researchers, the higher risk of leukemia among breast cancer survivors may be blamed on the effect of the cancer treatments on the healthy cells near the targeted tumors. And, because these breast cancer survivors tend to live longer after a successful treatment, then the chances of incurring another form of cancer related to the earlier treatment also increases, according to UPI.The researchers led by Dr. Jane Churpek from the University of Chicago took into consideration the medical records of 88 breast cancer survivors with an average age of 52 years when the breast cancer was first diagnosed and have treatment-related leukemia.
Among the 88 participants involved in the study, almost 1 in 5 patients had another cancer. On the 70 participants with an available family history, 57 percent had a close relative with breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer, while 21 percent of the 47 subjects with available DNA data had an inherited gene mutation linked with cancer.”The findings justify a long-term, follow-up study of women with and without inherited breast cancer gene mutations who are treated with similar therapy for breast cancer,” said study Dr. Churpek in a news release.
“This would enable us to understand how these genes impact therapy-related leukemia risk, and whether specific treatments come with higher risks based on a woman’s inherited genetics,” she added.Dr. Churpek went on to say that this new finding is significant because it could help the medical community in taking a more individualized approach to the potential risks and benefits of initial treatments for breast cancer.According to Dr. Judith Karp and Dr. Antonio Wolff, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, it is still hard to tell whether these treatments done in order to help breast cancer patients are really the culprit while there is such leukemia complications.
“Existing familial cancer registries that are prospectively following breast cancer patients and their families are uniquely positioned to ascertain the true frequency of subsequent leukemias and their associations with the therapies received,” they wrote in a journal editorial, according to WebMD.The researchers, on the other hand, are optimistic about the impact of the findings, which they believe have open the door towards preventing this treatment-related complications from arising in the future.