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Robin Roberts' condition shouldn't frighten women from aggressive breast cancer treatment, says physician

Robin Roberts' condition shouldn't frighten women from aggressive breast cancer treatment, says physician

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Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America

As Robin Roberts, co-anchor for ABC's Good Morning America, prepares for her medical leave, a local physician says Roberts' case shouldn't frighten women from continuing surveillance of their breast health or treatment when breast cancer is diagnosed.

Roberts will leave the morning show to have chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to fight her myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS, a condition that affects bone and bone marrow. She developed an aggressive form of the disease as a result of her breast cancer therapy several years ago.  

"I want to emphasize this is a rare complication and rare event," said Dr. Robert Kraetsch, a hematologist and oncologist with SSM Cancer Care at St. Joseph Medical Park in St. Peters. "Most women with breast cancer have a much higher risk of breast cancer returning than developing  MDS."

The risk of developing MDS is only 1.5 percent for women who undergo breast cancer treatment, he said. In his practice over four decades, his office has seen only 50 to 60 cases of the rare disease and all weren't the result of cancer therapy, he said.

Kraetsch explained Roberts' chemotherapy will be to put the disease into remission. The bone marrow transplant would replace the bone marrow — which helps manufacture blood. He said that with modern medicine the treatment could involve stem cell therapy, also.

Roberts sister will donate the marrow, Roberts says. That's very lucky for her, Kraetsch said. Black people have a small pool of bone marrow donors on the National Marrow Donor Program registry. And relatives aren't always a match, he said.

He hopes this episode will help enlist more people for the bone marrow transplant registry, he said.

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Harry Jackson is a health reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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