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Risk for breast cancer is higher for some survivors of childhood cancer than it is for people of the same age in the general population. Here's what you need to know to assess your risk and help prevent breast cancer.
Research has shown that people who received radiation to the chest for cancer in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood have a higher risk for breast cancer than people of the same age who never had radiation. Risk increases with higher doses of radiation.
Other factors, which apply to all women (not just those who had radiation to the chest), include:
Additional factors that might be linked with breast cancer include:
Risk for breast cancer begins to increase five to nine years after radiation and continues to rise thereafter. This means that survivors of childhood cancer who develop breast cancer do so at a much younger age (usually between 30 to 40 years old) than women who never received radiation (usually age 50 or older).
Although most people who received radiation to the chest won't develop breast cancer, it's still important to monitor your breasts. That way, if a cancer occurs it is more likely to be found early when it's easiest to treat. There are also healthy choices that you can make to lower your risk.
Discuss Screening with Your Doctor
Check your treatment records to find out how much radiation you received for childhood cancer. When calculating your radiation exposure, make sure to include any radiation from total body irradiation. It's also a good idea to arrange for your doctor to get a written summary of your cancer treatment (see related Health Link: "Long-Term Follow-Up after Childhood Cancer").
Follow these screening guidelines if you received radiation to the chest at doses of 20 Gy (3000 cGy/rads) or higher:
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
The following lifestyle changes may help lower risk for breast cancer. They will also help you stay as healthy as possible.
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have questions about your risk for breast cancer and how to protect your health.
Read more about Breast Cancer...