Second Cancers After Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often a major concern is facing cancer again. Cancer that comes back after treatment is called a recurrence. But some cancer survivors develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a second cancer.
Unfortunately, being treated for lung cancer doesn’t mean you can’t get another cancer. People who have had lung cancer can still get the same types of cancers that other people get. In fact, they might be at higher risk for certain types of cancer.
Survivors of non-small cell lung cancer can get any type of second cancer, but they have an increased risk of:
- A second lung cancer (This is different from the first cancer coming back.)
- Cancer of the larynx (voice box)
- Cancer of the mouth and throat
- Esophagus cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Small intestine cancer
- Colon cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Pancreas cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Cancer of the kidney and renal pelvis
- Thyroid cancer
- Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Lung cancer is the most common second cancer in someone with a previous lung cancer. Smoking is a risk factor for many of these cancers, and the risks of a second cancer are especially high among lung cancer survivors who continue to smoke.
Follow-up after lung cancer treatment
After completing treatment, you should still see your doctor regularly to look for any new symptoms or problems, because they could be caused by the cancer coming back, or by a new disease or second cancer. See Living as a Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Survivor for more on the types of tests you might need after treatment.
Lung cancer survivors should also follow the American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer, such as those for colorectal, breast, cervical, and prostate cancer. Screening tests can find some cancers early, when they are likely to be easier to treat. For people who have had lung cancer, most experts don’t recommend any additional testing to look for second cancers unless you have symptoms.
Can I lower my risk of getting a second cancer?
There are steps you can take to lower your risk and stay as healthy as possible. For example, people who have had lung cancer should do their best to stay away from tobacco products. Smoking increases the risk of dying from lung cancer, as well as of developing many of the second cancers seen after lung cancer.
To help maintain good health, lung cancer survivors should also:
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight
- Keep physically active
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
- Limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men
These steps may also lower the risk of some other health problems.
See Second Cancers in Adults for more information about causes of second cancers.
Last Medical Review: February 8, 2016 Last Revised: May 16, 2016