Recurrences and Second Cancers: What Are the Risks?

Survivors often fear their cancer will return or that treatments will cause a new type of cancer to develop.

It’s normal to have these thoughts. Depending on the type of cancer originally treated, there is a small risk that patients who received chemotherapy or radiation could develop a second cancer.

That risk ranges from 2 percent among survivors of lymphoma to 30 percent among survivors of small cell lung cancer.

Chemotherapy-related leukemias typically occur less than five years after treatment, while radiation-induced secondary cancers tend to occur five to 10 years after treatment.   

At City of Hope, we’re working to ease patient anxiety by providing thorough screenings for early detection of recurrences and secondary cancers.  

Screening guidelines are slightly different for cancer survivors than the general public, so make sure to talk with your doctor about what’s best for you.
 
Screenings for early detection include:  
  • Colonoscopies
  • Mammograms
  • PAP smears
  • Chest CT scans
  • Genetic testing
  • Prostate cancer screening with PSA levels
     
Lifestyle plays a role in reducing the risk of developing a second cancer. Here’s how you can stay healthy:
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat well
  • Engage in physical activity
  • Reduce sun exposure