Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Carcinogenic cancer treatment

Cancer treatment can be carcinogenic. Chemo can cause leukemia and lymphomas. Radiation can cause other cancers. Actually having these treatments greatly increases your risk of later cancers, never mind the fact that once you get cancer the first time, you are put in the higher risk category already.

A study was done (because we needed another study - we are keeping these researchers employed)  on people treated with radiation for cancer while young, are at greater risk of developing breast cancer.

"Risk of Breast Cancer by Age 50

  • Women treated with chest radiation for any pediatric cancer: 24%
  • Women treated with larger dose of chest radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma: 30%
  • Women with BRCA1 mutation: 31%
  • Women with BRCA2 mutation: 10%
  • Women with average risk: 4%"
""We need to know how to take care of survivors and change childhood cancer therapies, so this doesn't happen to the next group of survivors," says Lisa Diller of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "Children treated for Hodgkin lymphoma today are treated with therapies that try to maintain the excellent cure rates but use as little radiation as possible."

The Children's Oncology Group recommends women treated with higher doses of radiation begin breast cancer screenings at age 25, or eight years after finishing radiation, whichever comes later, using both mammograms and MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. Typically, medical societies recommend women at normal risk for breast cancer begin getting screening at age 40 or 50.

Diller says doctors may need to re-evaluate those guidelines for pediatric cancer survivors. She found that even women given lower doses of therapeutic radiation had a significant risk of breast cancer. That risk may continue to rise, too, as childhood cancer survivors age. Few survived the disease before the 1970s, so many of the first survivors are just hitting middle age."

So all of us 'guinea pigs' so to speak back then are testing the limits of the five year survival rates now that we are 30 or more years out. I did not have chest radiation but I was treated with radioactive iodine to get rid of the rest of my thyroid in 1981. Did that cause my breast cancer or increase my risk of breast cancer? I have no idea. My doctors tell me my cancers are unrelated but exposure to radiation or radioactivity is a known cancer risk so who knows.

So I guess they used toxic chemicals and radiation to save us but these same items that saved us may help undo us in the long run. Maybe if they can't cure cancer yet, they can find treatments that aren't as toxic in the long run.

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