Risk for Breast Cancer after Treatment for Childhood Cancer
What’s the risk?
Breast cancer risk can be increased after radiation therapy that includes the anterior chest wall, even in patients who have not yet developed breasts. Having radiation to the chest puts a woman at a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women of the same age group. Also, the higher the dose of radiation the greater the risk.
Modern therapy and radiation techniques have limited the amount of radiation that normal tissues receive, so over time the risk may be less than that observed in current adult survivors of childhood cancer.
When a risk is present, the increased risk of breast cancer usually does not occur until the mid-20s and/or at least 8 years after radiation therapy.
Talking to Your Provider
- Let your provider know if you have had radiation treatment to the chest as a child.
- Let your team know if you notice any changes to your breasts, lumps, or bumps.
Prevention and Treatment
If you had radiation to your chest as part of childhood cancer treatment you may need to start screening for breast cancer early. When and what type of screening test you should have depends on your field and dose of radiation. When breast cancer screening does begin early, it usually begins in the mid-20s or 8 years after radiation exposure (whichever occurs later).
General cancer prevention strategies should also be used including a healthy diet, physical activity, avoidance of tobacco use, and knowing your family history of cancer.
Children's Oncology Group. Breast Cancer Following Treatment: Are You at Risk? Found at https://childrensoncologygroup.org/index.php/breastcancer
Mulder, R. L., Hudson, M. M., Bhatia, S., Landier, W., Levitt, G., Constine, L. S., ... & Oeffinger, K. C. (2020). Updated breast cancer surveillance recommendations for female survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer from the International Guideline Harmonization Group. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 38(35), 4194.