Living with cancer blog

Prevention strategies, screening vital for cancer survivors

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. March 26, 2011

As a cancer survivor, you may be at risk for the occurrence of a second cancer. After treatment is completed it's great to have a break from all of the medical appointments. However, it's important to keep in mind prevention strategies and screening practices for the future.

As a cancer survivor, your risk for developing another cancer may be higher than the average person. This risk may be due to:

  • Chemotherapy drugs — Some may put you at risk for developing secondary leukemia.
  • Radiation therapy may put you at risk for developing second cancers that are solid tumors. People at increased risk are those who have received high doses of radiation over a large area.
  • Genetic mutations — Some people have inherited gene changes or mutations that increase the chances of getting a second cancer. If you feel that your family has a higher than average incidence of cancer, seek out a genetics specialist to review your family history and evaluate your risk.

What's important to keep in mind?

  • You may need more frequent or earlier screening than the recommended practice. Ask your health care provider what's recommended for you personally.
  • Understand your risk for a second cancer. If you had treatment for cancer ask your cancer treatment team what your risk is for developing a second cancer.
  • Be aware of changes in your body. Pay attention to new or unusual symptoms including: skin changes, swollen lymph nodes, unusual bleeding, pain, and excessive fatigue.
  • Practice healthy habits for cancer prevention. Don't use tobacco, protect your skin from sun exposure, limit alcohol intake, incorporate exercise into your routine, and eat a healthy, low-fat diet (fruits, vegetables and whole grains).

Celebrate your life by remembering your risk and understanding what's best for your future. If you're not sure what you need, ask your cancer treatment team or primary care provider to help you plan for your future screening. Many of you have mentioned that you're dealing with a second cancer. Use this blog to share your experiences with each other.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

March 26, 2011