Second Cancers Caused by Cancer Treatment

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Ovarian cancer

The increased risk of second cancers in ovarian cancer survivors includes cancers of the colon, rectum, small intestine, renal pelvis, breast, bladder, and bile duct, melanoma of the eye, and leukemia.

Radiation therapy is linked with cancers of connective tissues, bladder, and possibly pancreas cancer.

Chemotherapy is linked with an increased risk for leukemia. The main drugs linked with leukemia risk are platinum agents (like cisplatin and carboplatin). The risk increases as the total dose of these drugs increases, but the overall risk is still low.

Genetic factors that may have caused ovarian cancer in the first place may also add to the risk of breast and colorectal cancers. For example, women with mutations in the BRCA genes have a high risk of both ovarian and breast cancer, as well as some other cancers. Women with the inherited disorder called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome), have a high risk of colon, rectum, and small intestine cancers, as well as ovarian and other cancers.

Other risk factors for ovarian and breast cancer that overlap may also help explain some of the increased risk of breast cancer in ovarian cancer survivors.

Studies have shown that the risk of developing solid tumors is higher during all follow-up periods after ovarian cancer.

Follow-up care

Women who have had ovarian cancer will be watched closely for signs that the cancer has come back with regular physical exams, blood tests, and, sometimes, CT scans. These women have an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancers and should have regular screening for these cancers.

All patients should be encouraged to avoid tobacco smoke.


Last Medical Review: 01/30/2012
Last Revised: 01/30/2012