Objective: We examined systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients with breast cancer to identify the prevalence of radiation complications and to examine outcomes in SSc patients who received radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment.
Methods: Patients with SSc and breast cancer were identified from the Johns Hopkins and University of Pittsburgh Scleroderma Center databases. We examined whether erythema, blistering, ulceration, or thickening of the skin developed in the radiation therapy port. Changes in modified Rodnan skin thickness score (mRSS) and forced vital capacity percent predicted (FVC%) at 12 and 24 months post-cancer diagnosis were compared between patients who did and those who did not receive radiation therapy.
Results: A total of 43 of 116 breast cancer patients at Johns Hopkins and 26 of 37 patients at the University of Pittsburgh received breast radiation therapy. At Johns Hopkins, 4 of 30 (13.3%) patients with available data developed erythema, none had blistering, 1 of 30 (3.3%) developed ulceration, and 15 of 31 (48.4%) had skin thickening in the radiation port. At the University of Pittsburgh, 7 of 11 patients (63.6%) with available data developed erythema, 2 of 11 (18.2%) had blistering, none developed ulceration, and 6 of 11 (54.6%) had skin thickening in the radiation port. In a limited sample, there were no significant changes in the mRSS or FVC% between patients who did and those who did not receive radiation therapy.
Conclusion: These data suggest that radiation injury causing local tissue fibrosis is not inevitable in SSc patients with breast cancer, occurring in approximately 50% of patients without evidence of lung or generalized skin disease flare. Therefore, the use of radiation therapy for breast cancer is considered an option based on the informed patient's preference.
© 2018, American College of Rheumatology.