Risk of leukemia after chemotherapy?

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Question from SimonC: Dr. Kaplan, did anyone talk about the growing rates of leukemia and MDS following chemo for breast cancer? That's what happened to me and I'm concerned that women aren't being warned ahead of time that this is a real risk. I know my oncologist didn't talk about it.
Answers - Carol Kaplan Unfortunately, certain chemotherapy regimens are associated with permanent bone marrow toxicity, which can result in leukemia or a pre-leukemic diagnosis such as MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome). These risks have been well described in historical breast cancer trials, but it is important to point out that the risk is miniscule. However, unfortunately, the risk is real. I do believe that when women discuss the pros and cons of chemotherapy in the adjuvant setting with their oncologist, these toxicities should be pointed out. Having said that, if a woman is thought to be a candidate for adjuvant chemotherapy, the benefits of treatment far outweigh the risks of bone marrow toxicity. I am sorry that you have had the experience you have had, and you do well for other patients by sharing that experience.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Updates From the 2008 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium featured Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. and Carol Kaplan, M.D. answering your questions about the latest updates on breast cancer risk, screening techniques, treatment options, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in December 2008.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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