We don't always know the outcome of breast cancer radiation. But it is hard to comprehend how there can be such a drastic difference in diagnosis of simple skin lesions from benign to the possibility of angiosarcoma. The latest surgical biopsy report on lesions which started appearing on my chest almost two years ago highly recommends the complete removal of the lesions although the increased risk of another primary cancer is small. At this time the lesions are benign but they do "increase the risk of developing angiosarcoma" a very aggressive cancer which is normally fast growing with limited treatment.
Angiosarcoma from Breast Cancer Radiation
A cancer that can occur in any part of the body with the majority of cases occurring on the skin (cutaneous angiosarcoma) and 8% occurring in breast tissue ... occurs following radiation therapy.
Lesions previously removed in September 2014 were benign and in my case are attributed to deteriorated skin tissue from the radiation for the DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer treatment six years ago. Even though angiosarcoma is rare, it is basically untreatable. Another cancer usually not diagnosed until the later stages of the disease
Although the risks for any one person are not large, the increasing exposure to radiation
in the population may be a public health issue in the future.
Quote from New England Medical Journal
Source: the Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University Medical Center, New York.
Other Side Effects of Breast Cancer Radiation
CT and PET scan radiation therapy are invaluable in diagnosing and treating many health issues and diseases and research at this time indicates this side effect, i.e angiosarcoma, from breast cancer radiation is rare. There is a small risk of heart disease after breast cancer radiation therapy especially in the left breast. Patients who already have heart disease should be aware of this before undertaking radiation treatment and discuss options with their medical advisors.
Another possible long-term effect of breast cancer radiation treatment is lymphoedema. Here is a quote from the Cancer Research UK on this subject : "Some women get a swelling in the arm called lymphoedema after radiotherapy to the armpit, particularly if they have had surgery there too. These days, specialists do not recommend having both surgery and radiotherapy to the armpit due to the increased risk of lymphoedema. But surgery and radiotherapy to the armpit may both be needed if the lymph nodes there contain cancer cells."
“No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
― Edmund Burke
Lung disease is also a possible effect of breast cancer radiation treatment especially if the patient has received chemotherapy and radiation.
"The effects on the lungs may include the following:
- A change in how well the lungs work
- Thickening of the lining of the lungs
- Inflammation of the lungs
- Difficulty breathing"
Problems may occur in the Endocrine System, and may result in osteoporosis as well as brain and nerve problems. Also mentioned in the Cancer.Net article quoted above negative side effects can also occur with memory, dental, vision, digestion and cause chronic pain.
Angiosarcoma - another rare complication of radiation is developing a new primary cancer where the skin is radiated. Although the percentage of angiosarcoma occurrences from radiation treatment is evidently uncommon, for women such as myself who are diagnosed with this possibility, it can be extremely difficult to deal with.
A closing word on breast cancer lesions :
- Lesions usually appear 4 to 6 years after radiation treatment completion and,
- The more times lesions grow after surgical removal the greater the chance of developing into angiosarcoma
Breast Cancer Radiation Patient Awareness
If you are a cancer survivor it is so important to always be aware of what is happening with your body. Nobody knows it as well as you do so talk to your oncologist and surgeon about possible risks and any post treatment concerns you may have, especially if you notice any changes. This information applies to men as well as women.
It is important to emphasize that we are all unique and this is a rare side effect of breast cancer radiation but it is imperative that scheduled follow-up appointments be kept and any new health concerns brought to your doctor's attention without delay. I am continuing my dedication to my Lifestyle choices including reduced fat food choices, limited or no fast food, no alcohol or caffeine and daily fresh organic juice with fresh vegetables and fruit. The whole cancer diagnosis, surgery, treatment and prognosis experience can be an "up and down" emotional roller coaster ride. ... all the best in 2015
"The lesions (AVL) are so rare that few medical professionals are aware of their existence ...
Normally when you see a benign-appearing vascular lesion, you probably would pass it up."
- Dr. J. Mandrell, Loyola University, 2010
The original article was written previously with surgery taking place early January, 2015.
- The Free Dictionary angiosarcoma definition
- 2012 Radiation Associated Angiosarcoma after Breast Cancer article - US National Library of medicine
- 2011 "Composite cutaneous atypical vascular lesion and Langerhans cell histiocytosis after radiation for breast carcinoma" - Dermatology Online Journal
- 2010 "Skin lesions in breast cancer patients could lead to tumor, more study needed" - Loyola University, Maywood, Ill
- Causes, symptoms and treatment of angiosarcoma
- Cancer Research UK article "Breast Cancer Radiotherapy Side Effects"
- Radiation therapy accidents do occur
- Long term effects of cancer radiation treatment
- Overdiagnosis & overtreatment of DCIS - Cancer Research UK
- Not radiation related - but "a rare and serious side effect of tamoxifen can be the development of uterine cancer."