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Second Cancers After Lung Cancer

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.

Survivors of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) can get any type of second cancer, but they have an increased risk of:

NSCLC survivors also have a higher risk of developing these cancers, including:

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. The risk of cancer of the esophagus is higher among people treated with radiation therapy to the chest.

Follow-up after lung cancer treatment

After completing treatment for lung cancer, 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.

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 the risk of 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.
  • Follow a healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit sugary drinks and highly processed foods.
  • Limit alcohol intake. If you do drink, have 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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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Last Revised: January 29, 2024

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