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Childhood Cancer Survivors Have More Serious Health Conditions

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childhood cancer survivors still have health problems MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Children and adolescents diagnosed prior to 1970 with cancer were given little hope of reaching their 19th birthday. Improved treatments over the last four decades have dramatically increased survivorship to around 75 percent. However pediatric cancer survivors often face a greater lifetime risk of chronic health conditions, a new study found.

Three decades after their diagnosis, about 73 percent of pediatric cancer survivors experience at least one chronic health condition and six times higher risk of severe or life-threatening conditions compared to their peers who did not have cancer.

Researchers led by Dr. Anne Kirchhoff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City wanted to know how seriously a cancer diagnosis early in life impacts patients, families and communities.

The goal is to identify existing gaps in survivors’ long-term care and create strategies to prevent and better manage chronic conditions.

A common complaint among cancer survivors is that there is little or no followup after treatment ends, leaving many patients feeling abandoned by their health care providers. This gap is worsened by financial and access issues.

Kirchhoff said that this is a big problem, especially for childhood cancer survivors who tend to receive less survivorship-focused health care the further they are from their diagnosis.

For this study, Kirchhoff and colleagues identified 1,499 childhood cancer survivors and 7,713 who did not have cancer from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) and the Utah Cancer Registry. Half were women and roughly 98 percent were non-Hispanic white.

“We saw higher rates of hospitalization across most, but not all cancers types, particularly among women survivors, which gives us clues as to which groups of survivors may need better surveillance in the long term,” Kirchhoff said.

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