The cases of second cancers have lately been seeing an upward trend in terms of incidence. In the U.S., about one out of five new cases of cancer had the disease before.
Second cancer pertains to the growth of a new tumor outside of the original organ or tissue that had the malignancy, and not merely a recurrence or spread of the initial cancer. Many factors are associated with the occurrence of second cancers. Most of these risk factors are linked to the same genetic mutations that transpired before, while other cases are effects of previous cancer treatments such as radiation therapy.
Knowing what increases the risk of second cancers is critically vital to all cancer survivors, as experts say that being diagnosed with a second cancer is psychologically more traumatizing than the primary cancer.
The factors that may increase the risk of developing secondary cancer include:
Patients who have had cancers before they reached the age of 15 are more at risk of developing a secondary cancer. Because of a hereditary cancer syndrome, the therapies implemented and other associated factors, these patients are more at risk. With this, J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society Atlanta advises parents to keep track of their children's medical records and treatments as they advance in age. By keeping a complete data on file, patients who were once diagnosed with childhood cancers may have better prognosis should they encounter any health issues later in life.
In general, secondary cancers may develop solely because of aging. For example, men who were diagnosed with lung or colon cancer during the early stages of life may develop prostate cancer in their 80s or 90s, which according to experts, are somehow expected.
Familial History of Cancer
Genetics play an important role in determining possible secondary cancer development. Being adequately knowledgeable about the different diseases that family members have been diagnosed with may enhance treatment plans.
Scope of Primary Cancers
Some organs have similar tissue compositions; thus, carcinogens and other risk factors that caused one part of the body to develop cancer may also cause another organ to have the same fate. The immune system's vulnerability to a primary cancer may also explain why second cancers are more likely to occur.
Primary Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments come with numerous side effects, including having increased risk of developing secondary cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing a second cancer depends on the area and dose of the initial radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is said to cause more increased risk than radiation therapy in terms of second cancer development. Chemotherapeutic drugs may alter the DNA of cells and are said to elevate the risk of second cancers as the dose is increased.
The risk of developing a second cancer is influenced by a variety of factors. Experts agree that to prevent such development, cancer survivors should not forego regular screening and should alter their lifestyles, as these are things they have control over.