Kids Survive Cancer: Healthy Future?
Study Shows Most Childhood Cancer Survivors Have Chronic Health Problems as Adults
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 11, 2006 -- Well over a third of adult survivors of childhood cancer
develop serious, disabling, or life-threatening health problems in the decades
following treatment, and three out of four experience some chronic health
Researchers followed more than 10,000 pediatric cancer survivors diagnosed
and treated in the 1970s and 1980s in the largest long-term study of patient
outcomes ever reported.
The findings offer a sobering, but not entirely unexpected, picture of the
potential health problems faced by the approximately 270,000 adult survivors of
childhood cancers living in the U.S. today.
"The numbers are stark, but you have to put them into context,"
researcher Kevin C. Oeffinger, MD, tells WebMD. "We have had great success
treating children with cancer, but the cure usually involves fairly toxic
Second Cancers, Heart Disease
Among the major findings from the study, published in the Oct. 12 issue of
the New England Journal of Medicine:
Survivors of childhood cancers were eight times as likely to develop a
severe or life-threatening health problem as adult siblings with no cancer
history who were close to the same age.
Survivors treated for bone, brain, and nervous system cancers and Hodgkin's
diseasehad the highest risk of developing a chronic or
life-threatening health condition.
Female survivors were 50% more likely than male survivors to develop serious
health problems within three decades of treatment. They were also more likely
to develop more than one major health problem.
Second cancers, heart, kidney, and thyroid disease, osteoporosis,
and problems with learning and memory were the most commonly reported health
issues among the survivors.
Adults treated as children for bone tumors were at particular risk for bone
and muscle diseases, hearing loss, and congestive heart failure.
Those treated for brain tumors were most at risk for seizures,
learning and memory problems, and hormone-related disorders.
Hodgkin's disease survivors had a particularly high risk for developing
second cancers and heart disease.
'Dark Side' of Cancer Victory
Just over three decades ago, almost all children with cancer ended up dying
from their disease. But advances in chemotherapy introduced in the 1970s and
1980s changed that.