Childhood Cancer Survivors Unhealthy as Adults
Researchers Say Survivors Have More Physical and Emotional Problems
WebMD News Archive
Radiation a Major Culprit continued...
Sandra J. Horning MD, the incoming president of the American Society for
Clinical Oncology and professor of medicine at Stanford University, says some
"fairly dramatic changes" in doses and delivery of radiation as well as
in chemotherapy regimens put children today at lower risk of secondary health
Since the 1970s and 1980s "there has been a tremendous change" in
radiation, which is now more targeted to the area of a tumor.
"Also, we use lower doses and have lessened the duration of some
chemotherapy regimens," she says.
A Call for Annual Checkups
At the same time, Oeffinger says, some of the same chemotherapy drugs used
in the 1970s are still helping people beat cancer today. More than 75% of
children are cured of cancer today, compared with just 58% in 1975.
"The important thing for survivors to know is that the impact of these
health problems can be reduced with regular care," says Oeffinger, who
recommends annual checkups.
Most family doctors only have about three or four cancer survivors in their
entire practice, he says. "They don't really have that much experience, so
it's often up to the cancer survivor to take the initiative."
Dealing With Emotional Needs
In the second study, 53% of cancer survivors said that their "emotional
needs are harder than their physical needs" and 70% reported depression due
to their cancer.
Despite this, an alarming 70% said their doctors were "unable to assist
with nonmedical issues," says Steven N. Wolff, MD, professor of medicine at
the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
The survey of more than 1,000 cancer survivors was conducted by the
nonprofit Lance Armstrong Foundation.
David Johnson, MD, president of the American Society for Clinical Oncology
and a cancer survivor himself, says he's not surprised by the results.
"After I completed treatment with one of the best doctors I know, I asked
what to do next and he said, 'I don't know.'
"This is an unacceptable answer. Now that we have identified the scope
of the problem, we have to figure out what to do," says Johnson, an
oncologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Among issues that he
hopes will be looked at in future research are the role of exercise and diet in
helping to relieve depression and anxiety.