Second Cancers

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

DECEMBER 22, 2017

While this is not exactly welcome information, it is pretty important. The statistic is that 25% of patients over 65 and 11% of younger people who are diagnosed with cancer have had a previous cancer diagnosis. My non-medical brain tells me something like: "Well, since our bodies figured out how to make cancer once, it makes sense that they might do it again." I am sure that our doctors would explain it in a more scientific way, but that seems to be the bottom line. The positive addition might be: "And, since we were treated and are doing ok once, that is likely to be the case again." Not honestly sure if that is accurate, but it is comforting.

Since I fall into this group, I am weirdly reassured to have a lot of company. My first breast cancer was in 1993 when I was in my early 40s, and the second (a new primary) was in 2005. This year has been twelve years since that second diagnosis, and I have been kind of holding my breathe that there wasn't going to be a third. At least so far, that has been true.

From Eureka Alert Science News comes this article:

How common are new cancers in cancer survivors?

Bottom Line: One quarter of adults 65 or older and 11 percent of younger patients diagnosed with cancer from 2009 to 2013 had a prior cancer history.

Why The Research Is Interesting: The number of cancer survivors in the United States is growing and is estimated to reach 26 million by 2040. Understanding how common a subsequent cancer is among patients with a history of cancer is important for understanding ongoing or new cancer risk in survivors.

Who and When: 740,990 people diagnosed with new cancer from 2009 through 2013

What (Study Measures): Prior cancer among people diagnosed with a new cancer

How (Study Design): This is an observational study. Because researchers are not intervening for purposes of the study they cannot control natural differences that could explain study findings.

Authors: Caitlin C. Murphy, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and coauthors

Results: The frequency of prior cancer among patients diagnosed with new cancer ranged from 3.5 percent to 36.9 percent and most prior cancers were diagnosed in a different cancer site.

Limitations: The order of multiple cancers diagnosed in the same year could not be determined.

Study Conclusions: Patients diagnosed with new cancer who have a history of cancer may be excluded from clinical trials and underrepresented in research. Understanding the impact of prior cancer is important to improve research, disease outcomes and patient experience.


Read more:
View All Articles