Can I Get Another Cancer After Having Vulvar 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 vulvar cancer can get any type of second cancer, but they have an increased risk of:
- A second vulvar cancer (this is different than the first cancer coming back)
- Anal cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Mouth and throat cancer
- Cancer of the voice box (larynx)
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the brain and central nervous system
Many of these cancers are linked to smoking and/or infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), which are also risk factors for vulvar cancer.
Follow-up after treatment
After completing treatment for vulvar cancer see their doctors regularly to look for signs of their cancer coming back, as well as a second vulvar cancer, or new cancers of the vagina and anus. Experts do not recommend additional testing to look for second cancers in patients 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.
Survivors of vulvar cancer should follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer and stay away from tobacco products. Smoking increases the risk of many of the second cancers seen in women treated for vulvar cancer.
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: July 2, 2014 Last Revised: February 16, 2016