Battling cancer again

Kari Dudley, who was diagnosed with a second cancer 12 years after her first diagnosis

Kari Dudley, pictured with her daughterts. Kari was diagnosed with a second cancer 12 years after treatment for Hodgkin disease.

While no one who has survived a few rounds in the fight against cancer, wants to think about going back into the ring again, the reality is, that as cancer patients live longer, the risk of facing a secondary cancer is increased. That is why, it is so important that we remain diligent in our follow-ups.

I recently came across the story of Kari Dudley, a mother of two young girls, who twelve years after treatment for early-stage Hodgkin disease was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

In fact her breast cancer was discovered while she was enrolled in a secondary cancers study sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Kari decided to treat the new cancer aggressively and had a bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Not to be confused with a recurrence of the primary tumor, being diagnosed with a new cancer can be either a second cancer, meaning it is coincidental and in no way connected to treatment for the first diagnosis, or a secondary cancer, one that may have been caused (or whose risk may have been increased) by treatment for the initial cancer.

Second cancers occur for a variety of reasons, the majority not related to past cancer treatment. For example, it is well known that breast cancer survivors with a BRCA mutation are more susceptible to ovarian cancer, and current or former smokers who have survived other cancers may have an increased risk of lung cancer.

The message I take from this story, which is featured in Cure Today, is how important it is to continue to be monitored for long-term effects such as secondary cancers after the five year check-up. We should also take care of ourselves by maintaining  a healthy lifestyle, execrcising, eating well, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and using sun protection.

If you are interested in the issue of follow up care, Europa Donna Ireland, the Irish Breast Cancer Campaign will be hosting an Information Session  next Saturday, 23 May, with Dr Ailis Ni Riain, Irish College of General Practitioners. The title of the session is Follow-Up: Priorities and Practice. There will be an opportunity to ask questions afterwards.  For more details, click here.

Related Post: Dealing with the fear of recurrence