Take Charge After Childhood Cancer!

Childhood cancer survivors have a variety of health conditions as adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Thanks to advances in medicine, thousands of youngsters have fought and won the battle against childhood cancers. But thousands of long-term cancer victors are now living with the late effects of their treatments.

Childhood cancer survivors need to take charge of their health, stay in close touch with their medical team for screenings and care and focus on a healthy lifestyle.

A new study discovered that childhood cancer survivors were extremely likely to develop serious medical conditions as adults, many of which may go undetected.

The research concluded that the treatments that have kept these cancer survivors alive also may be contributing to premature aging.

"As a childhood cancer survivor, stay close to your medical team."

Melissa Hudson, MD, director of the St. Jude Division of Cancer Survivorship, led this research.

To evaluate the health and well-being of survivors, the researchers examined 1,713 individuals who had been treated for childhood cancers at St. Jude for an average of 25 years after diagnosis.

The study found that 98 percent of the participants had at least one chronic (ongoing) health condition.

By the age of 45, some 80 percent of the survivors had either a life-threatening or disabling health condition.

"These findings are a wake-up call to healthcare providers and survivors to be proactive about their health," Dr. Hudson said in a press release.

Specifically, the study discovered the survivors suffered from a number of conditions resulting childhood cancer treatment:

  • 65 percent of study members had abnormal lung function.
  • 62 percent of the adults had hearing loss.
  • 61 percent of the survivors had trouble with either the hypothalamus or pituitary glands.
  • 56 percent of those who’d beat cancer as children had heart problems as adults.
  • 48 percent of childhood cancer survivors had neurocognitive (thinking/reasoning) impairment, including memory problems.

Most of these conditions were detected during the clinical screenings and exams the study participants went through at St. Jude. Symptoms had not yet developed, and this is the stage at which these conditions can most effectively be treated, according to the researchers.

The median (middle) age of study members was 32 years. Given the appearance of these conditions that are usually found in older individuals, Dr. Hudson said that childhood cancer treatments appear to accelerate the aging process.

"These findings underscore the importance of ongoing health monitoring for adults who survive childhood cancer," the authors concluded.

Today, some 395,000 individuals call themselves childhood cancer survivors, a number that will continue to grow.

This study was published June 10 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC). Three of the authors reported financial ties with Norvo Nordisk, SRA Consultancy and Eli Lilly.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 10, 2013
Last Updated:
August 7, 2013