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2nd Cancers Rising in America

While overall new cases of cancer diagnosed in America are showing a downward trend, the rate of diagnosis for second cancers is on the uptick. Second cancers are not recurrences or spreading of the original disease. They are a new type of cancer or a new site of disease that is diagnosed in someone who has previously undergone treatment.

The shock of being diagnosed with a brand new type of cancer after having faced down the disease in the past can be incredibly difficult for patients to endure. This is, however, becoming a rather common occurrence as researchers say nearly one in five new cases reported in the United States is actually a patient who has had cancer before. The rise of second cancers has been sharp over the past two decades, researchers note. Back in the 1970s, second cancers accounted for only about 9 percent of all reported new cases. Now, that number has climbed to 19 percent with some people facing third, fourth or even more cancer diagnoses over the course of their lifetimes.

Treating second cancers can be traumatizing for patients and difficult for doctors, researchers say. For patients there’s a sense of disbelief that is quickly followed by a grim understanding of the treatments that are yet to come. For doctors, options for treatment may be problematic. For example, radiation often cannot be given to the same basic region of the body two times. Some highly effective cancer-fighting drugs may also have lifetime dose limits, complicating matters more.

As the number of second cancer cases continue to rise, doctors do stress that a new diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world. Oftentimes, if the new cancer is caught early enough, doctors can devise effective treatment plans. That means people who have faced cancer before are urged to not neglect screenings for other cancers. They are also urged to go in for routine follow-ups.

People who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past are advised to speak with their healthcare providers about their risks for other forms of the disease. The best screening recommendations will come from healthcare providers that understand the patient’s unique case.

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