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Secondary cancers are cancers that develop as a result of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. These cancers are usually unrelated to the first disease a patient suffered from. Rather, they are a long-term side effect of the treatment used to combat the original cancer.
These side-effects can occur months or years after a patient enters remission. The use of strong chemotherapy agents like etoposide, high doses of radiation, or combination chemo and radiation therapy all increase a patient's risk of developing a secondary cancer.
Due to this possibility, cancer survivors are monitored closely by their doctors. That way, if a secondary cancer does arise, it will be caught early when it is treatable.
The chance for developing a secondary cancer after 20 years of remission is 10%. This risk increases to 26% after 30 years. Patients who were younger than 21 years of age during their treatment have a higher incidence of secondary cancers, and that risk increases if both chemotherapy and radiation were used.