New research shows that a breast cancer diagnosis can come with another risk

(MEDSTAR) - Doctors know women who have a history of breast cancer also have an increased risk for ovarian cancer. But younger women with breast cancer need to be aware of a new risk.

Learning you have breast cancer can be devastating. But what if months later you're told you also have the precursor to endometrial cancer? It happened to Janine Spencer.

"I was really devastated," said Janine. "I just felt like I went through all this, it was successful and I thought I was done."

Janine is thankful it was caught so early; the endometrial cancer didn't have a chance to form.

I'm all done with that and doing fine," said Janine.

Evidence suggests there's a link between breast cancer and an aggressive type of endometrial cancer.

"It was particularly strong when the women had the breast cancer when they were young, before the age of 55," said Dr. Setsuko Chambers, a gynecologist at Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson.

Dr. Wenxin Zheng and his team at the University of Arizona made the connection after looking over more than a thousand patient medical records.

"Any woman with breast cancer history should pay attention uh to this possibility of highly aggressive endometrial cancer," said Dr. Zheng.

Endometrial cancer isn't detected through a routine pap. It forms on the inside lining of the uterus and most patients don't even know they have it.

"When they come to the clinic uh most of these patients they are in an advanced stage. That's why they have very poor prognosis," Dr. Zheng said.

The team hopes their findings will change all that, just like it did for Janine.

"Don't feel it's a death sentence," said Janine. "There is so much that can be done nowadays."

Rresearchers are now looking for the markers that will make detecting endometrial cancer easier.

According to the Arizona researchers, cancer of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, is the most common malignancy of the female genital tract in the U.S.

Fast facts:

  • About 43,470 cases of endometrial cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.
  • Type 2 endometrial cancers are much more aggressive and likely to spread.
  • Estrogen exposure associated with the breast cancer drug, tamoxifen, may play a role in development of endometrial cancer.
  • In one study, 20 percent of breast cancer patients were eventually diagnosed with type 2 endometrial cancer.

For general information on endometrial or breast cancer:

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