Thanks to modern treatments, Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) is usually a manageable, long-term condition, that you live with.[AND19]
But unfortunately, being diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean you won’t get a new, unrelated type of cancer in the future. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that people living with CML may be more at risk of developing another cancer than the general population. When this happens, it’s often referred to as a ‘second primary cancer’ or a ‘secondary malignancy’.[GUG17,GUN15,ACS1,KUM18]
We can’t predict who might develop a second cancer,[KUM18] so it’s important to understand the risks, and to remain proactive about your health.
The truth is, nobody knows. Many factors could play a role, for example: [REB10]
What’s reassuring is that the risk of developing a second primary cancer is not thought to be a related to medications called TKIs (tyrosine kinase inhibitors), which are the standard treatment for CML. So, if you’re taking a TKI, it’s essential that you continue the treatment.[ACS2,GUN15,KUM18]
Making positive lifestyle changes can help maintain good health: [ACS1]
Most people with CML see their healthcare team often. Probably the most important thing you can do for your health is to make sure you attend all your appointments. Talk to your healthcare team about your risks and what you can do to reduce them. It might be worth writing a list of questions, such as: [ACS1]
See your doctor right away if you notice any of the following: [ACS3]
Check out our guide on talking to your doctor.
Be proactive with your mental health, too
Whilst it’s important to be proactive, it’s easy to spend more time than you’d like worrying about your health. And that’s understandable— living with CML isn’t easy. If you’re feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed, talk to your healthcare team, as they might be able to recommend ways to cope.
Rest assured that most people living with CML will not develop a second cancer.[GUG17, GUG15,] So if you do develop a worrying symptom, remind yourself that it’s probably not anything to worry about. But it’s best to get checked out.
[ACS1] American Cancer Society. Second Cancers After Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Available at:
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia/after-treatment/second-cancers.html. Accessed November 2021
[ACS2] American Cancer Society. Targeted Therapies for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/chronic-myeloid-leukemia/treating/targeted-therapies.html. Accessed November 2021
[ACS3] American Cancer Society. Can I Do Anything to Prevent Cancer Recurrence? Available at:
https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/long-term-health-concerns/recurrence/can-i-do-anything-to-prevent-cancer-recurrence.html . Accessed November 2021
[AND19] Andrews, C. N., et al. The true value of second-generation TKIs as first-line therapy in
chronic myeloid leukaemia. The Lancet: Haematology. 2019;6(8):385-386.
[GUG17] Gugliotta, G., et al. Incidence of second primary malignancies and related mortality in patients with imatinib-treated chronic myeloid leukemia. Haematologica. 2017;102(9):1530-1536.
[GUN15] Gunnarsson, N., et al. Second malignancies following treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia in the tyrosine kinase inhibitor era. British Journal of Haematology. 2015;169(5):683-688.
[KUM18] Kumar, V., et al. An observational study on risk of secondary cancers in chronic myeloid leukemia patients in the TKI era in the United States. Peer J. 2018;12(6):4342.