After breast cancer has gone into remission, it is not a good idea to hear about another round of cancer treatments. This can happen when breast cancer comes back.

It can also happen when a secondary cancer, such as leukemia, develops.

Secondary cancers are cancers that develop after a cancer has gone into remission and are related to the treatments that were given. A secondary cancer can develop months or even years after the cancer treatments have ended.

People who have been treated for breast cancer can develop leukemia.

You can learn more about the risk of leukemia after breast cancer, what causes it to develop, how it is treated, and more.

It’s estimated that around 0.5% of people treated for breast cancer go on to develop secondary leukemia. This is different from a recurrence of breast cancer after remission.

A new cancer is leukemia after breast cancer treatment. It is not breast cancer.

Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. Acute leukemias grow and spread quickly, while chronic leukemias spread slowly.

In most cases, the type of leukemia that develops after breast cancer treatment is acute. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common type of leukemia to develop as a secondary cancer after breast cancer treatment.

Cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, affect both cancer cells and healthy cells. It’s known that exposure to radiation can increase the risk for certain cancers.

Researchers believe that breast cancer treatment damages the bone marrow. The cells inside your bone marrow are what make blood cells. Blood cell production can be affected by damage to bone marrow. Leukemia is a blood cancer and can be caused by this.

A 2019 study has indicated that it’s possible that these DNA mutations might already exist in some people. This research theorizes that chemotherapy and radiation treatments activate pre-existing mutations, and could explain why secondary leukemia only happens to a small number of people who’ve had breast cancer treatments.

If further studies confirm these findings, doctors could be able to identify people who are at risk for leukemia before breast cancer treatments begin.

Other cancers following breast cancer

Another breast cancer is the most common cancer that people get after breast cancer. Having breast cancer increases your risk of other breast cancer tumors.

Other types of cancer can occur after breast cancer treatment.

Leukemia can take months or years after breast cancer treatment. It is a good idea to keep your appointments and report any new symptoms to your doctor.

It can seem minor or like the symptoms of less serious conditions at first, but reporting them quickly can make a difference in treatment options and outcomes. If you have had leukemia symptoms for more than a week, please let your doctor know.

Leukemia symptoms include:

Your treatment for leukemia will depend on a number of factors, including your health, how far the leukemia has spread, and how well you responded to treatment for breast cancer.

“The leukemia isn’t a repeat of breast cancer. It is a new cancer that needs to be treated separately.”

Treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the primary treatment for all forms of leukemia and is used to kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses energy to kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses specialized medications to find, block, and kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy teaches your immune system to find and destroy cancer cells.
  • Bone marrow transplants: A bone marrow transplant, sometimes called a stem cell transplant, is a procedure that replaces your unhealthy bone marrow cells with cancer-free bone marrow cells. The healthy cells can come either from your own body or from the body of a donor. You can read more about bone marrow transplants here.

The outlook for leukemia depends on a number of factors including:

  • How far the leukemia has spread?
  • Your overall health.
  • How well do you respond to treatment?
  • Your age.

According to the National Cancer Institute, between 2012 and 2018 the 5-year survival rate for all types of leukemia was 65.7 percent.

Over the past several decades, survival rates have trended upwards. As new and more effective treatment options are developed, this trend will continue.

A small but significant percentage of people who are treated for breast cancer develop leukemia as a result.

Researchers are still looking at what causes leukemia and what can be done to reduce it. It is believed that a combination of the known risks of radiation along with the possible pre-existing genetic factors could lead to secondary leukemia.

It is a good idea to report any signs and symptoms you experience after breast cancer treatment to your doctor. It is possible to increase your treatment options and improve your outlook with early diagnosis.