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Can Someone Have 2 Different Cancers Simultaneously?

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Cancer is a disease that is quite challenging and stressful to face. However, around 1 to 3% of cancer patients develop a second cancer that is often completely different from the first one.

When a cancer survivor develops a completely new and different cancer, it is called second cancer.

A reason cited for an increase in the number of second cancers is the advancement in early cancer detection and treatment, which is increasing their cancer survival rate. While many cancer survivors live their lives cancer-free and healthy, few suffer from second cancer or other health-related issues due to cancer treatment.

Who is at Risk of Developing Second Cancer?

Cancer survivors recovered from cancer earlier are said to be at an increased risk of developing second cancer. This risk is exceptionally high for certain types of cancers that an individual may have suffered from the first time. Though it is still not completely clear why these cancers occur, here are some factors that increase the risk for second cancer:

● Type of primary cancer

The first cancer that an individual suffers from determines the type of treatment they may have received over time. High doses of radiation or chemotherapy can increase the risk of developing second cancer in another organ or region of the body. Whether it is the first cancer, the treatment given for curing it, or a combination of the two that gives rise to second cancer, is still unknown.

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● Age during treatment

It has been observed that children and younger people are at a higher risk of developing second cancer after radiation or chemotherapy compared to older adults. This can also be attributed to the fact that younger people are more likely to survive cancer the first time.

● Type of chemotherapy taken for the first cancer

Some types of cancer require a higher dosage of radiation or chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs can increase the risk of developing second cancer. These include:

  • Mechlorethamine
  • Procarbazine
  • Nitrogen mustard
  • Chlorambucil
  • BCNU (bischloroethylnitrosourea)
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Ifosfamide
  • Epipodophyllotoxins
  • Anthracyclines

● Type of Radiation Used

The higher the dose of radiation one receives, the higher is the risk of developing second cancer. Although it has not yet been determined on how the dosage of radiation received affects the chances of developing second cancer, childhood cancer survivors who have received radiation therapy are at a heightened risk of developing second cancer.

● Family history

A gene that has been inherited is passed from one of the parent to the child within the family. An inherited risk may include having one or more than one family members with cancer or any condition linked to cancer.

● Lifestyle

Lifestyle and environmental factors play a significant role in the development of any cancer. The risk of second cancer in survivors increases with unhealthy lifestyles like smoking, alcoholism, lack of exercise, and poor diet.hat are the Signs and Symptoms of a Second Cancer?

The best way to cure cancer is early detection and prompt treatment. Though many types of cancer do not present with any signs or symptoms, it is useful to know them as it helps in early detection. This is true for second cancers as well. Routine health checkups, including imaging and blood tests, can help in the detection of second cancer. Some signs and symptoms that one can watch out for include:

  • A wound or sore that fails to heal.
  • Change in bowel movements.
  • Bone pain.
  • Unusual discharge.
  • Sudden bleeding.
  • A lump in the breast or any other part of your body.
  • Vision changes.
  • Sudden, uncontrollable headaches.
  • Hoarseness in the voice.

Though having these symptoms certainly does not mean that one has cancer, it is best to get one or more of these symptom combinations evaluated by a specialist.


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How can Second Cancer be prevented?

Cancer survivors often have a nagging fear about their cancer returning. If you are one of those thinking about how to prevent second cancer from occurring, the following tips may be useful:

●  Avoid smoking. Smoking and chewing tobacco can trigger cancer. Even second-hand smoke can become the cause of second cancer.

●  Healthy, nutritious diet. Following the diet plan provided by your nutritionist and including healthy fresh foods that are rich in antioxidants is a great way to keep second cancer at bay. Having a healthy, nutritious diet is also helpful to bring your body back to normal after the first bout of cancer.

●  Physical activity. Getting your daily dose of 30-minutes of workout or physical exercise is essential to keep your body healthy and your mind fit. It is particularly helpful for cancer survivors to prevent the development of second cancer.

●  Limit/Avoid alcohol. If you are a cancer survivor, it is recommended that you limit or avoid the consumption of alcohol.

● Protect yourself from the sun. Few cancers can be triggered due to excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Protect yourself from the sun and if you have to step out, always wear a high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin.

●  Be alert. Nobody knows your body better than you. If you feel any signs and symptoms of cancer, or anything like you may have noticed during your first cancer, bring it to the notice of your healthcare provider at the earliest.

●  Get regular screenings done. Keeping up with your screening appointments makes sure any early signs of second cancer are detected early and treated promptly. Book an appointment with our specialists at Apollo Hospitals.

Coping with Fear of Recurrence of Cancer

The fear of cancer recurrence or the development of second cancer is very common among survivors. It is natural to feel that way. However, being paranoid or worrying too much about recurrence or developing cancer again can impact your quality of life.

Here is how you can cope with the fear of cancer recurrence and appearance:

  • Speak with your support system – friends and family.
  • Be open and communicate with others like you.
  • Find support groups.
  • Visit a professional therapist who can help alleviate your fears.


It is natural to worry about cancer recurring or another cancer occurring after beating the first one. However, with the advanced technology available today in cancer diagnosis and treatment, one can expect to live a cancer-free life. If you are a cancer survivor and want to know more about second cancer, consult our Oncologists at Apollo Hospitals.

Verified By Dr Sai Lakshmi Daayana
MBBS, MRCOG, MD RCOG approved Sub-specialty training in Gynaecological Oncology (UK), MD, MRCOG, CCT(UK), Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad
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