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.