Taking Care of Second Cancer Risk

Krista L. Wilkins, PhD, RN; Roberta L. Woodgate, PhD


Cancer Nurs. 2012;35(1):55-62. 

In This Article


Awareness of benefits of taking care of second cancer risk did not always translate into action. Despite their awareness that taking care of their second cancer risk by engaging in healthy lifestyle practices, checking for a second cancer or second cancer risk, and information seeking might save them from a premature second cancer diagnosis or death, few cancer survivors translated this awareness into action. This finding adds to the mounting evidence that the prevalence of medical follow-up and cancer screening among cancer survivors is below recommended levels.[10–17] The most common reason that cancer survivors offered for not taking care of their second cancer risk was sense of helplessness in preventing a second cancer, which has been reported by Hodgkin disease survivors.[19]

Trust in healthcare professionals to take care of their second cancer risk meant many cancer survivors did not practice selfexaminations, preferring to have clinical examinations. Discussions about second cancer risk and its management with a healthcare provider motivated cancer survivors to take care of their second cancer risk. This finding is similar to the trend seen in previous studies, in which specific recommendations from healthcare providers are associated with higher rate of cancer screening.[15] Consistent with results found in survivors of Hodgkin disease, a more positive perception of healthcare provider interactions also served as a motivator to take care of risk.[19]

Cancer survivors' need for timely and complete access to lifelong follow-up care is also reinforced in the literature.[3,4] Consistent with previous studies,[15,19] cancer survivors reported feeling confused about whom to consult for help in taking care of second cancer risk, as well as the frequency of such consultations. One challenge identified by study participants was the lack of continuity in care, which resulted in much discomfort when transitioning to a new healthcare provider.