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Risk of Developing Primary Lung Cancer after Radiation Therapy

Posted 9/4/2014

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  This is not good news, but neither is it news that should significantly elevate your anxiety level. Put it into the "good to know about" category as you move forward. As increasing numbers of people survive their cancers, there are more longterm side effects from treatment that can be worrisome. We have known that radiation therapy on the left side slightly increases a woman's chances of later developing heart disease. This study from Denmark, presented at a European meeting, reports that women have a similar small, but statistically significant, increased risk of later developing a primary lung cancer after radiation therapy for breast cancer.

  The risk increases with the amount of radiation absorbed by tissue, so that any reduction in the dose of delivered radiation also lowers the risk. This is good news as radiation machines and techniques are increasingly sophisticated, and women (and men) are generally receiving less radiation for their treatments.

  Again, this is not something to panic about, but I believe we all do best when fully informed--or as informed as possible. Here is the start and then a link to the report from Science Daily:

Increased risk of developing lung cancer after radiotherapy for breast cancer

Women who have radiotherapy for breast cancer have a small but significantly increased risk of subsequently developing a primary lung tumour, and now research has shown that this risk increases with the amount of radiation absorbed by the tissue.

Dr Trine Grantzau (MD) told the 33rd conference of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO33) in Vienna: "We found that for each Gray delivered to the lung as part of radiotherapy for a breast tumour, the relative risk of developing a subsequent primary lung cancer increased. This increased risk was similar to the reported increased risk of heart disease after radiotherapy for breast cancer.
"Our findings suggest that any reduction in the dose of radiation to the lung would result in a reduction in the risk of radiation-induced subsequent lung cancers. With the advances in breast cancer treatment and the introduction of breast cancer screening, a growing number of women are becoming long-term survivors, and so we need to have an increased awareness of treatment-induced second cancers and take steps to reduce those risks by using radiotherapy techniques that spare normal tissue as much as possible."


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