Cancer treatment associated with secondary cancers

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Radiotherapy is one of the treatment options for prostate cancer and a new study found an association between prostate cancer and radiotherapy treatment which according to the author, a professor from University of Toronto has a risk of secondary cancers development.

The rate of this risk is low but is worthy of mentioning. According to prof ‘’ radiotherapy for prostate cancer was associated with higher risks of developing second malignancies of the bladder, colon, and rectum compared with patients unexposed to radiotherapy’’ He however said the rates of these secondary cancers remain low especially when compared with other rates of complications associated with other treatment for prostate cancer. Other treatment options for patients with a diagnosis of prostate cancer can include surgery. He said each option is associated with side effects including urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction and noted that secondary cancers related to treatment represent perhaps the most serious of all complications, but past studies have led to conflicting results.

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Speaking on the essence of the research, the author established that there were other similar studies but their analysis on the association between radiotherapy and secondary cancers was much weaker especially for patients treated with brachytherapy than for those treated with external beam radiotherapy and thus their study looked into this direction. The researchers analyzed the results of 21 studies made up 3,056 patients with prostate cancer and assessed the risk of secondary malignancies in patients exposed or unexposed to radiotherapy in the course of treatment for prostate cancer.

Their result showed the increased risk in cancer of the bladder, colorectum and rectum but not cancer of the hematologic system or lungs after radiotherapy compared with the risk in those unexposed to radiotherapy. According to the author, ‘the odds of a second cancer varied depending on type of radiotherapy: treatment with external beam radiotherapy was consistently associated with increased odds while brachytherapy was not. Among the patients who underwent radiotherapy, from individual studies, the highest absolute rates reported for bladder, colorectal, and rectal cancers were 3.8%, 4.2%, and 1.2%, respectively, while the lowest reported rates were 0.1%, 0.3%, and 0.3%.’’, he said

The author concluded that there was an increase in risk but the absolute rates of these secondary cancers remain low, particularly compared with other rates of complications associated with treatment for prostate cancer. This information he believes could be helpful in the decision making process regarding such treatment.





Robert K Nam, professor, Division of Urology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre,
Sunnybrook Research Institute, University of Toronto, Room MG-406, 2075 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5, Canada, BMJ,3rd March, 2016


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