If you have been treated earlier in life for cancer, new research is worth your attention. In recent decades, some of the most important triumphs in cancer care have been in the treatment of childhood cancer. But with that success has come a price for some childhood cancer patients who later develop a second cancer or another serious medical condition believed to be related to their earlier cancer treatment.
For example, the radiation used to treat or cure a childhood cancer can also affect normal cells exposed to the radiation, causing a new, different cancer that develops many years later. Because of this risk, people who have been treated for cancer in the past should be more aggressive about doing what they can to minimize their risk of another cancer. These individuals should also have regular screenings for possible complications of their earlier treatment, including the development of another cancer, such as breast cancer. The researchers in this study found that former childhood cancer patients were, on average, NOT getting the kind of medical care, counseling, and screening (including mammograms) that they should based on their medical history. Perhaps not surprisingly, those who had lower incomes or who were uninsured were least likely to get appropriate follow-up care.
If you've been treated in the past for cancer, it's particularly important that you regularly see a doctor who is familiar with your past medical history, understands your special risks, and who can plan with you and provide to you the counseling, monitoring and screening for possible complications of your prior treatment. If your past treatment history increases your risk of breast cancer, you and your doctor should consider a more aggressive approach to breast cancer screening. This kind of approach might include more frequent mammograms starting at an earlier age than the normal recommendation of age 40, and perhaps using different imaging techniques, such as breast MRI.
This article was made possible by an educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline.