Washington, 25 October 2006
By Lisa Pickoff-White
People who were cured of cancer as children have unusually high rates of heart disease, second cancers, infertility, damaged joints, learning disabilities, and other problems later in life, according to a new study of more than 10,000 survivors. The most severe disabilities occurred in those who survived Hodgkin's disease or cancers of the bones or central nervous system, and their incidence increased over time.
Almost 80 percent of children and teenagers who have cancer now survive for at least five years or are cured completely. Currently, there are about 0,000 long-term childhood cancer survivors in the United States. Although the study -- published in the Oct. 12 New England Journal of Medicine -- did not include anyone who started treatment after 1986, many of the medications are the same and radiation is still widely used to treat some cancers.
A number of National Academies reports deal with surviving cancer. Childhood Cancer Survivorship: Improving Care and Quality of Life examines the "late effects" of childhood cancer and recommends the creation of services to address the psychological implications of cancer for survivors and their families. From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition focused on adult cancer survivors and recommends that each cancer patient should receive a "survivorship care plan" that would provide a summary of their cancer treatment and a description of long-term follow-up care needed.