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secondary cancers related to radiation

Posts: 33
Joined: Oct 2000

My name is Rory. I am a cancer survivor of Hodgkin's diagnosed in 1974 and treated by mantle radiation. Recently, I developed aching and swelling symptoms in my left upper chest and left arm. My doctor has told me that those of us who received radiation to the chest have a very high risk of secondary cancers. The highest risk is lung cancer. Others are sarcomas, breast cancers, and non-hodgkins. Has anybody else ever had to deal with the possibility of secondary cancers?

Posts: 5
Joined: Feb 2001

Yes I have. I had breast cancer 10 years after receiving radiaiton therapy for Hodgkin's. That was 5 years ago. I have decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy on the other breast to avoid any more cancers.

Posts: 2
Joined: Apr 2001

I had Hodgkin's in 1989, was cancer free until Sept 2000 when I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Lekemia. They first thought it was due to the radiation for Hodgkin's, but after doing DNA testing, found out that my immune system was damaged by something else.

I have heard that secondary cancers are very common.

Snail Lady _@/"

Posts: 3
Joined: Aug 2001

Rory, I had Hodgkins w./ mantle radiation in '91, along w/ abdomen radiation. Last week I recieved a Breast cancer diagnosos, radiologist is sure it is from the radiation. I never was told of lung cancer. YIKES! I hope you are OK. Cancer sucks! I will be deciding on treatment this coming week. Susan

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2001

How many treatments did you receive of radiation? I am very worried about this. You can e-mail me at kim@ggbarn.com. Thanks, would love any re-plies

Posts: 28
Joined: Mar 2011

I am about to undergo radiation for a mediastinal mass in my chest that wasn't completely dealt with by Chemo and have been reading about secondary cancers. It is interesting that they are finding more cases of secondary cancers because treatment for primary cancers have become much better and people with cancer are living longer. It is very disheartening now to think I may have to deal with breast cancer or lung cancer later because of my treatment, but what do you do? Not treat the cancer you have now, because you might get another one later? I am hoping that 10 -15 years down the road (when secondary cancers typically appear)the treatments will be even better than they are today!

Incidentally - I was reading a research report by the American Cancer Institute and some Chemo drugs also may cause secondary cancers...they specifically mentioned 3 of the ones I took in the R-EPOCH regimen...so looks like my odds of a second one are even better...

Posts: 7
Joined: Jul 2011

MS. Brook, and to everyone else on here.

I was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma, via thoracotomy for possible thymoma(mediastinal mass in chest).

This was in Oct. 2010.

Diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in left breast in June of 2010. So, breast cancer shocker, then Lymphoma shocker.

Now, looks like recurrence of breast cancer now. See 2nd surgeon this Friday.

My primary oncologist is convinced that the seven rounds of rads post lumpectomy , and all of the ct scans in the previous two years(which equals lots of radiation) caused my breast cancer.


Posts: 21
Joined: Oct 2010


You found out about your second cancer just 4 months? So sorry to hear that!

I finished 6 months of chemo and 20 radiation treatments a few weeks ago and now secondary cancer is a HUGE concern! I also had HL with an enormous mediastinal mass in my chest. I don't get another scan until the end of August and I just don't have confidence that this thing is gone. : (

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2011

I am just a few months from hitting my five-year NHL free mark. I had a routine mammo last week and they found a mass. Now I have to have another biopsy to see if I have breast cancer. Could this be related to the radiation I received to my chest?

Posts: 1
Joined: Nov 2011

Hello! I was curious how radiation is going for you. I also have a mediastinal mass in my chest and will have to undergo 5 weeks of radiation sometime after the new year. I know everyone is different but I would really appreciate you telling what to expect during this process, what side effects I can expect and if it will deplete what energy I have left. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Posts: 28
Joined: Mar 2011

Hi. I"m not sure who you were directing this to - but my radiation went find. They used the newer XRT technology so they really only hit the area where the tumor originally was, and the remaining hot spot. From what my doctor said, only a small part of my lung and breast got some radiation, and that not very much. I really didn't notice any side effects during my 20 rounds of chemo. My chest turned a very slight pink, but nothing bothersome. I didn't notice feeling tired or fatigued...but then I think my tolerance for that was a bit skewed since I'd come off of Chemo 10 weeks prior and that really drained me.

I did get a cough about 3 weeks following my final treatment. Since it was several weeks after my last treatment, I didn't even associate it with the radiation; but thought it odd because it wasn't cold or allergy related. My radiation oncologist was sure it was latent side effects from the radiation - (a form of pneumonitis)and sure enough it went away after 3 or 4 weeks. I feel great now - 3 months after my last dose.

- Susan

longtermsurvivor's picture
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mar 2010

betweeen radiation and a second malignancy, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that every second cancer is somehow related to the treatment of the first, but that really isn't the way this works. Breast cancer, of course, is by far the leading cancer for women, and there are no studies to show it is more common after radiation for any of the blood/lymphoid malignancies. It just is a very common cancer, so you can have leukemia treated any way it is treated, and have breast cancer at the same rate as the general public does.

Now, if you've had one blood component cancer, your lifetime risk of having another blood component cancer, from the same or a different cell line, is increased. This is irrespective of the treatment modality used to treat the first cancer.

These events are pretty well studied and there are tons of literature reports upon the issues involved. One type of cancer found by research to be increased in ALL patients who have underrgone irradiation for any type of malignancy is sarcoma. This is not a general, whole body effect, but is limited to arising in the area that was actually irradiated.

In medicine, sometimes things which may appear to the eye to be related are truly not, in which case it is said that the two events analyze this way "true, true, but unrelated."

Best to everyone.

bluerose's picture
Posts: 1112
Joined: Jul 2009

That may sound like a very negative statement but in fact the reverse is true as well - it can be just as positive a statement as well when it comes to cancer. You just never know.

My experience has been the reverse to be sure in that even though I was total body radiated and chemoed into unconsciousness way back in the early 90ties when they didn't realize that less was more perhaps here I am all these years later with no secondary cancers.

I do however have about 2 million side effects that have been confirmed as being chemo and probably rad related but when it comes right down to it it's pretty hard to say for sure what is causing them either - just that the odds are good that it is from aggressive treatments.

Take heart from the subject of this posting though. The mind is a powerful force and if you tell yourself that you are bound to get a secondary cancer I truly believe that is stronger a force than many chemos or rad protocols. I am not saying that chemos/rads are a great thing to have thrust on you, as far as possibly weakening your body is concerned, but I guess it's a price that we were/are willing to pay for possible survival.

I enter this post because I had a rather unusual incident happen to me during my isolation days after my transplant, isolation in hospital I mean, and during that incident I was put into the mindset that my cancer would never be back. I have written about the incident before but basically I feel that I had an actual healing take place and during it came the message 'yes this is a healing and the cancer will never be back'. While I know that this is a situation that doesn't arise everyday my point in recollecting it now is that at the very least I truly feel that that confidence in 'knowing' that the cancer would never be back took me a long way in actually not getting the cancer again. I feel it was a case of intense belief that led me to where I am now.

However, after saying that I have no guarantees that perhaps another type of cancer could well arise in the future for me somewhere down the road but I am certain it will not be the same cancer if it happens. Of course I can't prove any of this, I just believe due to that incident but others can perhaps benefit from my experience and realize the power of belief in whatever seems most truthful to you.

I don't think that in most situations there is one answer to why we get cancer or one reason alone as to how to avoid it but I do think that our mind is a powerful thing so let's not 'help' things along by being any more negative than is humanly possible. I try to do that but I'm human so I fall into ruts of negativity too, we all do from time to time. Trick is not to stay there any longer than we have to.

I can tell you that autologus bone marrow transplants were brutal when I underwent it many years ago. Total body radiation is not done as it was then or at least if it is still being done it's not as often for sure so I have been told. Too much collateral damage and I can attest to that. Some chemo drugs I had now are still used but are monitored much more closely due to lessons learned from the past harsher treatments. Still, like I said before - did I have a choice? Actually yes but would I have chosen differently even if I knew what might lay ahead in side effects? I think not although some days ........, well you understand.

So my message here is that truly the only thing for sure in cancer treatment is that nothing is for sure and so why not look at it from a positive perspective and live to live - if nothing is for sure then why not focus on the stories of those who have received treatments - harsh treatments of the past and have never had another cancer. We are out here. Take heart.



Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2016

Hello.  I was diagnosed with Stage IV hodgkins in February 1995.  I had 4 weeks Mantle Radiation as well as ABVD chemo thereapy.  I had to have my Thyroid removed in 2012 and diagnosed with Breast Cancer in Dec 2015.  I had a double mastecomy with reconstruction and 4 TC chemo treatements.  I finished my chemo a month ago and my doctors and I are currently debating radiation therapy.  I had two positive lymphnodes.  My doctors have fallen short of advising me for or against radiation and have left the decision in my hands.  There are lot of risks to secondary radiation.  Namely lung and heart damage as well as skin necrosis as my skin nearly died after the mastecomy.  As well as a large concern over lymphdema.  In general the quality of life concerns as well as long term side effects seem to be outweighing the benifit of this adjunct radiotherapy.  As the radiotherapy would be a precautionary messure only protecting me from recurrence in the same breast.  Has anyone had secondary mantle radiation for breast cancer after hodgkins disease?

Posts: 800
Joined: May 2016

Thanks for starting this thread again.  I've been looking for people who had second cancers after having hodgkins lymphoma.  I guess i didnt look too hard because it looks like there are or were many.  I hope they are still around.  I had hodgkins lymphoma in 1992.  Just two month ago I was diagnoced with uterine cancer.  I have had two, now that i think about it it might have been three, cancer doctors tell me that this uterine cancer was caused by the radiation given to me during while treating my hodgkins.  I'm curently doing chemo and the doctors are telling me they want me to do internal radiation.  Im not sure of the risk of that.  I need to find out about that before i decide myself.  Good luck on you decision.

Anonymous user (not verified)

I have secondary, or at least different, cancers which I assume are not related to my indolent follicular lymphoma stage IV. I was treated for lymphoma with Rituxan and did not receive radiation. The FNHL has been silent for 4 years but my last scan showed spots on my lungs. A new scan in September may tell me if its back. Since my treatment with "R" I have had both Squamous cell tumors and now melanoma. I am assuming that all of these had a different genesis. I am at the point where I just don't give a damn what caused this except that I do not want my loved ones to be exposed to anything which I experienced that may have caused this situation. I guess my point is there is no way to know what causes secondary tumors. Radiation is a scary subject and we tend want to think it is the source of all our tumors. Maybe, maybe not.

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