It’s become a reality that as people live longer, their chances of being diagnosed with cancer increase. The good news is that screening and treatment methods continue to improve, meaning better odds of detecting cancer early and treating it successfully.
“A focus on awareness and creating an early detection plan has dramatically increased the survival rate for those diagnosed with cancer,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “However, for a growing number of people, surviving cancer is only the beginning of their fight against the disease.”
A recent study found that 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer today have had the disease before. These new cases are known as “second cancers,” and their frequency is on the rise.
Know Your Breast Cancer Risk
Each October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps bring increased attention to a disease that will strike 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. The National Breast Cancer Foundation encourages women to learn the symptoms of breast cancer, make self-exams at home a habit and get a yearly mammogram by a health care professional.
Though men are much less likely to develop breast cancer than women (about 1 in 1000), they have a significantly lower survival rate when they do get the disease.
This is mostly because men are likely to delay seeking treatment, which gives the cancer time to grow or spread to other parts of the body. So if you’re male and notice a lump (or any of these other symptoms) take it seriously and see your doctor right away. It may not be breast cancer, but it’s better to find out one way or the other as soon as possible.
What Are “Second Cancers”?
Second cancers are not a recurrence of a previous cancer or a spread of the original tumor – they are a new, unrelated cancer, often found in a different part of the body. A breast cancer survivor being diagnosed with colon cancer or being diagnosed with a new case of breast cancer are both examples of second cancers.
The risk factors for getting a second cancer vary from person to person, but may include the following:
- Family history and genetics
- The type of treatment for previous cancers (some cancers require high doses of radiation and chemotherapy, which increases cancer risk)
- The age you were first treated for cancer (children and young adults are at higher risk)
- Lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive use of alcohol, lack of exercise and poor diet
Dealing with the Fear of a Second Cancer
The physical and emotional challenges of overcoming cancer can take a toll on even the most resilient people in our lives. For cancer survivors, dealing with the fear that every new ache or pain could be cancer can be very difficult.
“Being diagnosed with a second cancer can be even more traumatizing than the first time,” says Borck. “Learning to manage this fear can go a long way toward lowering stress levels and improving overall quality of life.”
If you’re struggling with the fear of being diagnosed with a second cancer, consider the following:
- Talk to friends and family. It will help get your fears out in the open and show you how much support you have waiting for you.
- Join a cancer support group. Groups like the Cancer Survivors Network and the National Cancer Information Center can connect you with the right kind of support for your situation.
- Seek out a professional. Many cancer centers have trained staff members who specialize in working with cancer survivors and their families.
The LHSNFA has a variety of publications that can help Laborers and their families make healthy choices and reduce their risk for cancer. These publications, which include Laborers’ Health & Wellness: Cancer and Cancer Prevention Tips for Laborers and Their Families, can be ordered through the online Publications Catalogue.