, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 66-72

Post-treatment sarcoma in breast cancer patients

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Background: Many patients treated for breast cancer with radiotherapy will survive their disease and be at risk for treatment-related sarcoma for many years.

Methods: In order to identify patients with post-treatment sarcoma and define this disease, we examined the records of 99 patients treated for sarcoma with a history of antecedent breast carcinoma. Of these patients, 51 were felt to have a sarcoma unrelated to breast cancer treatment and 48 were felt to have a treatment-related sarcoma (secondary to lymphedema and/or radiation).

Results: Lymphangiosarcoma of the extremity was the most common histologic subtype of post-treatment sarcoma, accounting for 22 of 48 cases (46%). Twenty-six patients (54%) developed nonlymphangiosarcoma post-treatment sarcoma; all of these were radiation-associated sarcomas. The median latency interval between the diagnosis of breast cancer and the development of sarcoma was 11 years (range 4–44) and was not different between the two groups. However, patients with nonlymphangiosarcoma were significantly younger when diagnosed with breast cancer than were those with lymphangiosarcoma of the extremity (median 43 vs. 51 years, p<0.001). The survival of all 48 patients was poor: 5-year survival was 29%. Five-year survival of patients with other types of post-treatment sarcoma was just as poor as those with lymphangiosarcoma of the extremity (30% vs. 28%, p=0.98).

Conclusions: Patients who develop sarcoma after treatment for breast cancer have a poor prognosis whether it occurs as Stewart-Treves syndrome or other types of post-treatment sarcoma. Younger patients may be at higher risk than are older patients for the development of nonlymphangiosarcoma post-treatment sarcoma.