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According to a recent article published in the medical journal Chest, the majority of second primary cancers in patients with non-small cell cancer develop one year from the date of initial diagnosis. Patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer may wish to speak with their physician about possible screening measures for second cancers.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States and Europe. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for approximately 75%-80% of all lung cancers, and refers to the type of cell within the lung that the cancer originated. Patients with lung cancer have an increased risk of developing a second primary cancer (another cancer that is not NSCLC), or a second episode of NSCLC that has not spread from the original NSCLC. Researchers are evaluating trends in patients with NSCLC to help determine optimal timelines and procedures for screening for a new NSCLC or a new primary cancer.

Researchers from the Netherlands recently evaluated data from 860 patients who were diagnosed with NSCLC between 1990 and 1999. These patients were evaluated for the development of second cancers following their diagnosis of NSCLC, or for cancers that occurred prior to their diagnosis of NSCLC. The following groups of patients were identified and evaluated:

Group I=44 patients with a second primary cancer

Group II=148 patients with a another primary cancer in their history

Group III=634 patients without a second cancer

Group IV=34 patients with more than one primary in their history or follow-up.

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Overall, one-quarter of all patients had either a second cancer prior to or following the diagnosis of NSCLC. Of patients who developed a second primary cancer following the diagnosis of NSCLC, over 80% developed the second cancer within one year of initial diagnosis of NSCLC. The most common sites of cancer besides the diagnosis of NSCLC were the lung, head and neck or urinary tract.

The researchers concluded that a second cancer following initial diagnosis of NSCLC tends to occur within one year following NSCLC, and patients should undergo appropriate screening measures for these cancers. In addition, most cancers in patients diagnosed with NSCLC occur in the lung, head and neck or urinary tract. This includes patients who have a cancer diagnosis prior to their diagnosis of NSCLC, or following their diagnosis of NSCLC. Patients with NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician regarding appropriate screening for second cancers.

Reference: Duchateau C, Stokkel M. Second Primary Tumors Involving Non-small Cell Lung Cancer. Chest. 2005; 127:1152-1158.

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