Childhood cancer survivors

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: December 12th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The good news is… more children are surviving cancer. The bad news is… two out of three of these survivors have serious health problems as adults.

So says a recent Duke University study, the largest ever to follow cancer survivors into adulthood. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which analyzed data from twenty-six medical centers, is the first to compare ten-thousand cancer survivors to three-thousand of their siblings.

The findings are alarming: Cancer survivors are eight times more likely than their siblings to have life- threatening or severe chronic health conditions.

Those at highest risk survived Hodgkin’s disease, bone tumors, and nerve and brain cancer. They were fifty-four times more likely to need a major joint replacement and fifteen times more likely to develop a second malignant tumor or have congestive heart failure. They also were much more likely to have thinking problems, heart disease, kidney failure or stroke.

The statistics are surprising because the success rates of treating many childhood tumors continue to climb. Each year in the United States alone, nearly twenty-thousand children are diagnosed with cancer. Fifty years ago most of them died. Today’s cure rate is almost eighty percent.

Researchers speculate that damage left in children’s systems after radiation and chemotherapy may not surface for many years. They also warn that cancer survivors may develop age-related problems earlier than normal.

The longer they live, the more health conditions survivors develop, which makes monitoring crucial to their overall care.