Can I Get Another Cancer After Having Ovarian Cancer?
Cancer survivors can be affected by a number of health problems, but often their greatest concern is facing cancer again. If a cancer comes back after treatment it is called a “recurrence.” But some cancer survivors may develop a new, unrelated cancer later. This is called a “second cancer.” No matter what type of cancer you have had, it is still possible to get another (new) cancer, even after surviving the first.
Unfortunately, being treated for cancer doesn’t mean you can’t get another cancer. People who have had cancer can still get the same types of cancers that other people get. In fact, certain types of cancer and cancer treatments can be linked to a higher risk of certain second cancers.
Survivors of ovarian cancer can get any type of second cancer, but they have an increased risk of:
- Colon cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Small intestine cancer
- Cancer of the renal pelvis (part of the kidney)
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Melanoma of the eye
- Acute leukemia
The increased risk of leukemia is linked to treatment with chemotherapy. 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, small intestine, and renal pelvis 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 after treatment
After completing treatment for ovarian cancer, you should still see your doctor regularly to watch for signs that the cancer has come back. Experts do not recommend any special testing to look for second cancers in survivors of ovarian cancer without symptoms. Let your doctor know about any new symptoms or problems, because they could be caused by the cancer coming back or by a new disease or second cancer.
These women should follow-the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer, such as those for breast and colorectal cancers.
All survivors of ovarian cancer should avoid tobacco smoke, as smoking increases the risk of many cancers.
To help maintain good health, survivors should also:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Adopt a physically active lifestyle
- Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
- Limit consumption of alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day
These steps may also lower the risk of some cancers.
See Second Cancers in Adults for more information about causes of second cancers.
Last Medical Review: August 5, 2014 Last Revised: February 4, 2016