M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: April 2008
Duration: 0 / 04:10
Return to Cancer Survivorship
Just because you survived cancer does not make you immune to other illnesses. For example, as a survivor, you still need to have regular doctor visits, maintain a healthy diet, exercise, monitor your blood pressure, and avoid smoking and alcohol, to name a few.
From the Living through cancer to Living beyond cancer stages of survivorship, surveillance becomes very important. For example, depending on the type of cancer, the stage, and treatment of that cancer, there’s a possibility that the disease may recur, or come back.
First, you still need to be aware of illnesses or conditions that may run in your family, such as heart disease or diabetes, which may be completely unrelated to your cancer.
Second, some cancers cluster as syndromes in people with a particular genetic background. For example, patients with certain types of breast cancer may be more likely to develop cancer of the ovaries.
Third, certain treatments may themselves create a risk for a later cancer.
And finally, the fourth element of surveillance, which is often forgotten, is following the same general guidelines that apply to everybody for the early detection of cancer.
These include preventive screenings such as breast exams and mammograms, an annual PAP smear and pelvic exam, colonoscopy at appropriate intervals, and the prostate specific antigen or PSA test.
Depending on the type of cancer, treatments, and the age when you were treated, more frequent screenings may be needed, or they may need to be done earlier in life than the general population.
We know that about somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of all people in the United States will eventually develop a cancer, but for some survivors of childhood cancer, the rate is going to be higher and the age at which they develop cancer is going to be much younger. And there are certain screening tests that can be done for early detection which would make it more likely that you would survive the second cancer, too.
Healthy living is just what the doctor ordered for everyone, because a healthy body is most able to cope with the challenges of illness. For cancer survivors, a focus on health is a must. For Max, realizing that his cancer is cyclical was a revelation.
That was another sort of big mental adjustment, is recognizing that there are going to be—that every time I'm up, at some point there's going to be another down, and so I need to take advantage of the ups, one, to have experiences I want to have, and the other is to prepare myself physically and whatever, for the next down cycle.
Individuals who maintain their health are going to be able to face second challenges of cancer if they do, unfortunately, occur - late relapses of their primary cancer or second primary cancers. So it’s important that the patients have an overall focus on health.
Cancer is a continuous battle, so it’s just like when you fly and you have an emergency, you don’t quit until the last part of the airplane stops moving. That’s what they tell us, just keep going, and I think that’s my way of saying, don’t give up too soon. If you’re moving, there’s still hope. And in an airplane, if the airplane’s still moving, it’s still in one piece, there’s still hope to bring it down safely.
Return to Cancer Survivorship
© 2007 The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030
1-800-392-1611 (USA) / 1-713-792-6161