If you are lucky enough to be one of the few where a chemotherapy drug actually does successfully treat you, chances are high that chemotherapy will cause another cancer to develop usually a solid one which is untreatable by orthodox means. Women treated for Hodgkin’s disease as children, for instance, have a very high risk of developing cancer later. The calculations by one study group concluded that as many as one third have developed breast cancer by the time they’re 40 (New Eng, J Med, 1996; 334: 745-51). The risk of solid cancer (considered three times the risk of normal) applies even if a patient received chemotherapy alone (BMJ, 1992; 304: 1137-41).
Adults who’d had chemo as children also have a risk of bone cancer thus far, some 13,000 children who’d survived cancer for three years have been identified as victims (J Natl Cancer Inst, 1996; 88: 270-8).Children treated for one leukemia can go on to develop another form (N Eng J Med, December 12, 1991). Chemotherapy also causes late heart problems, particularly in women (N Eng J Med, 1995; 332: 1738-43); in one study, nearly a quarter of patients treated with anthracyclines developed cardiac abnormalities years later (JAMA, 1991: 266; (12): 1672-7). It can also cause late liver toxicity in long term survivors of Hodgkin’s disease (Onc, 1996; 53(1): 73-8), as well as lung cancer.
This means that many survivors may be trading off one type of cancer for a more deadly one later.