A study conducted at the John Hopkins University School has shown that breast cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy or radiotherapy have a slight chance of developing leukemia as a recuperation of therapy. Although only half of one percent people will develop it, researchers agree that it is still a greater risk than they had anticipated.
According to the authors of the study, bone marrow cancers like leukemia are thought to arise as a result of drug therapy given to these patients to beat cancer.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Judith Karp, confirms it.
“The frequency of bone marrow cancers such as leukemia is small, there’s no question about it.”
Karp is a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Which is situated in Baltimore.
The study authors took into account eight cancer centers across the United States, where they assessed almost 20,000 patients from 1998 to 2007 and collected information about their health after they had received treatment for their breast cancer.
According to the data accumulated, 50 patients in all developed leukemia post exposure to radiation therapy or to chemotherapy.
The researchers had previously estimated the risk of leukemia occurrence to be as low as 0.25%, which actually occurred at a double rate in the patients. The scientists noted that the incidence now is 0.50%. Although this is a relatively little increase, it an increase none the less and possible bad news for someone.
“However, the cumulative risk over a decade is now shown to be twice as high as we thought it was, and that risk doesn’t seem to slow down five years after treatment,” said Karp.
The major issue that researchers raised was the fact that patients who suffered from breast cancer also showed relapses over time. Susceptible people would have to continue their drug and radiation therapy in case there is relapse. Continuing the therapy could mean increase in the incidence and susceptibility to cancer like leukemia and decrease the quality of life even further. It seems that although cancer can be debilitating, the therapies employed to battle it, leave behind gruesome after effects. The researchers are also worried that the effects of the treatment last long and can be seen even after 5 years of termination
Their study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.