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What Is a Secondary Cancer?

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Updated October 11, 2012

Definition:

A secondary cancer can refer either to a second primary cancer, or to cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another (metastatic cancer).

For example, if someone has a primary breast cancer, a secondary cancer in her lung could be either a new lung cancer (primary lung cancer), or due to spread of her breast cancer to her lungs (breast cancer metastatic to the lungs).

In some cases, the treatment for a primary cancer (such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy), can cause cell damage that predisposes an individual to a secondary cancer.

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