SAN FRANCISCO--Women with breast cancer are at higher risk of
developing a second gynecologic cancer than women who do not have
the disease, Eva Chalas, MD, reported at a poster session of the
Society of Gynecologic Oncologists meeting. Close gynecologic
monitoring in the first 3 years after a breast cancer diagnosis
is essential, she said.
"This has been demonstrated extensively in the scientific
literature," Dr. Chalas said, "and suggests that there
is a genetic linkage between breast cancer and colon, endometrial,
and ovarian cancers."
Dr. Chalas and her colleagues at the State University of New York
at Stony Brook, where she is director, Division of Gynecologic
Oncology, retrospectively reviewed the medical histories of 143
breast cancer patients treated at Stony Brook from 1981 to 1994.
The review focused on the women's ob/gyn histories and risk factors
for gynecologic cancers.
Among these 143 patients, the researchers found 41 diagnoses of
gynecologic malignancies--18 ovarian, 16 endometrial, four cervical,
and three other. The study also noted that the gynecologic malignancies
were most likely to appear during the first 3 years after the
original breast cancer diagnosis, she said.
"This indicates, in our opinion, that there is a sensitive
period of time during which these women need to be carefully monitored
for gynecologic problems," Dr. Chalas said in an interview
with Oncology News International.
Among the breast cancer patients who reported gynecologic symptoms,
one third were found to have a gynecologic malignancy, and the
probability of finding such a malignancy was significantly higher
in these women. "If women become symptomatic, they need to
be followed closely," she emphasized.
Although not every woman with breast cancer is necessarily at
higher risk of developing a gynecologic malignancy, the study
findings should alert breast cancer patients and their physicians
to that possibility and to the need to report gynecologic symptoms
promptly, she said.