The good news is that more people are surviving cancer and going on to healthy lives. The less than good news is that the incidence of second, unrelated cancers is also growing--although it is still very low at 1-3%. Being one of that small number myself, I know that any statistic is pretty meaningless for any one person. The real number for any one of us is either 0 or 100.
As some of you know, my first breast cancer was in 1993. Treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and ongoing hormonal therapy, I was fine until 2005 when I developed a second, unrelated-to-the-first breast cancer. That one was also treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and ongoing hormonal therapy, and, so far (knocking hard on wood), I am fine.
When I was going through treatment in 2005, I was aware that I was very scary for many new patients. While we were talking, and I was trying to be supportive and hopeful and helpful, I was right-in-front-of-their-eyes proof of one possible nightmare. Not much good to say about it then or now.Just as everyone is different, every cancer is different, and my two experiences were both alike and not alike. In 1993, I was a single parent with a young child at home and absolutely terrified that I might leave her. In 2005, both my daughters were young adults, and I was happily married, so those fears were reduced. I think that I had also lived with the experience and evidence of my own mortality for twelve years, so the shock was absent. I also knew that I could get through treatment; I had done it once and could (not happily) do it again. Hoping very much that I am not faced with a third time!
Here is an article from HemOnc Today about this trend. I give you the start and a link to read more:
As number of cancer survivors grows, so does rate of second malignancies
There are approximately 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
That number is expected to climb to nearly 19 million by 2024, the society estimates.
Although advances in early detection and treatment have dramatically increased the likelihood that Americans will survive
their initial cancer diagnosis, the fact they are living longer — coupled with after-effects of radiation and other therapies — makes it more likely they may develop a second type of cancer later in life.
HemOnc Today spoke with Eric Horwitz, MD, chairman of the department of radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center — Temple Health in Philadelphia, about the increasing incidence of second cancers, whether certain patient populations are at increased risk and what priorities should be established for future research into second malignancies.
Question: What are the most recent statistics for the rate of second cancers in the United States?
Answer: Roughly 1% to 3% of people who have had one cancer go on to develop a completely new cancer down the road. However, this is a number that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as the rate is actually quite low.