Can lung cancer "wake up" dormant leukemia?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 11, 2016
Just wondering asked...

My father was just recently diagnosed with lung cancer. At this point we don't know much, he is having more testing done. He was diagnosed about 5 years ago with "dormant leukemia". I am just wondering if having active lung cancer is going to exasperate the leukemia? If so, if he goes through chemo for the lung cancer, will this work with the leukemia or is that a different treatment?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

Any cancer and its treatment puts a great deal of stress on the body. An active lung cancer might exasperate the "dormant leukemia" because the body's defenses will now be even more stressed. There is a significant risk that the combination of the 2 diseases and treatments could be very hard on your father's body and cause much suffering depending on the treatments used. It is important to ask carefully about the likely side effects of the different treatments. Different cancers are different diseases and so the treatments may help with other cancers but likely do not. The treatment for lung cancer is not likely to help fight the leukemia.
The most important thing would be communication between the 2(?) doctors treating your 2 different cancers and them with you. They each need to know the ongoing situation with the other cancer and treatment. In some places, the same oncologist may treat both diseases but usually an oncologist treats the lung cancer and a hematologist treats the leukemia.