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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information

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In addition to risk-based screening for medical late effects, the impact of health behaviors on cancer-related health risks should also be emphasized. Health-promoting behaviors should be stressed for survivors of childhood cancer, as targeted educational efforts appear to be worthwhile.[28,29,30,31] Smoking, excess alcohol use, and illicit drug use increase risk of organ toxicity and, potentially, subsequent neoplasms. Unhealthy dietary practices and sedentary lifestyle may exacerbate treatment-related metabolic and cardiovascular complications. Proactively addressing unhealthy and risky behaviors is pertinent, as several research investigations confirm that long-term survivors use tobacco and alcohol and have inactive lifestyles at higher rates than is ideal given their increased risk of cardiac, pulmonary, and metabolic late effects.[32,33,34]

Unfortunately, the majority of childhood cancer survivors do not receive recommended risk-based care. The CCSS reported that 88.8% of survivors were receiving some form of medical care; however, only 31.5% reported receiving care that focused on their prior cancer (survivor-focused care), and 17.8% reported receiving survivor-focused care that included advice about risk reduction and discussion or ordering of screening tests.[32] Among the same cohort, surveillance for new cases of cancer was very low in survivors at the highest risk for colon, breast, or skin cancer, suggesting that survivors and their physicians need education about their risks and recommended surveillance.[35] Health insurance access appears to play an important role in access to risk-based survivor care. In a related CCSS study, uninsured survivors were less likely than those privately insured to report a cancer-related visit (adjusted relative risk [RR] = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.75–0.91) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.71–0.98). Uninsured survivors had lower levels of utilization in all measures of care compared with privately insured survivors. In contrast, publicly insured survivors were more likely to report a cancer-related visit (adjusted RR = 1.22; 95% CI, 1.11–1.35) or a cancer center visit (adjusted RR = 1.41; 95% CI, 1.18–1.70) than were privately insured survivors.[36] In a study comparing health care outcomes for long-term survivors of AYA cancer with young adults who have a cancer history, the proportion of uninsured survivors did not differ between the two groups. Subgroups of AYA survivors may be at additional risk for facing health care barriers. Younger survivors (aged 20–29 years), females, nonwhites, and survivors reporting poorer health faced more cost barriers, which may inhibit the early detection of late effects.[37] Overall, lack of health insurance remains a significant concern for survivors of childhood cancer because of health issues, unemployment, and other societal factors. Legislation, like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act legislation, has improved access and retention of health insurance among survivors, although the quality and limitations associated with these policies have not been well studied.[38,39]

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