According to a new study, even though a lot of advances have been made with regards to making cancer treatment effective and safer, a gain in long-term outcomes of health don’t appear in adults who happen to be childhood cancer survivors.
The current study observed that even though the odds of survival are indeed better for childhood cancer patients, as they grow older they may experience chronic medical ailments that are linked to tumor and cancer treatments.
The researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine that at least one in every four survivors of childhood cancer experienced problems with their health during their 20s and 30s. According to the lead author of the study, Kristen Ness of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, such individuals have higher rates of chronic conditions compared to the general population and their siblings. They also happen to perceive that their overall health is worse.
For conducting the current research, a total of 14,566 adult childhood cancer survivors were compared to their siblings. There was no history of malignancies. All of the cancer survivors were treated during the 1970s, the 80s, and the 90s.
A reduction of exposure to radiation and doses of chemotherapy was seen over the past generation. The team of researchers was expecting more recently treated cancer survivor to report comparatively better outcomes. However, that wasn’t the case. The results from the study showed that there was a reduction in the level of survivors having disabling, life-threatening or severe health conditions. The decrease was approximately 33% in the individuals treated in the 1970s to almost 21% in survivors who were treated in the 1990s. But when the results were compared to survivors who were treated in the 70s, it was seen that individuals from the 90s reported higher levels of anxiety and poor health linked to cancer.
The results showed that by the 1990s, poor general health was reported by leukemia survivors while constant pain was reported by osteosarcoma survivors. The current study also found out that there was no link present between the number of survivors who were reporting problems with their health and the change in the dose of drugs and radiation over time. Regardless of the time or era of their treatment, individuals were highly likely to report experiencing problems with their health if they didn’t exercise much, were obese, underweight, or smoked.
The researchers are aware that the improvement in cancer treatments might have allowed people, who were treated in the 70s, to be able to live long enough in order for them to report issues with their health during the 90s. There is also a possibility that survivors might also have some sort of risk factors for specific problems with their health and that didn’t have to do with cancer or its treatment at all.
Cancer researchers note that while there is no doubt that the rate or quantity of cancer survival has greatly improved, the quality of said survival needs more work. Further research is required in order to help childhood cancer survivors not face chronic health conditions as they grow older. While it is understandable that parents and doctors focus on treating cancer in child patients, leading a healthy lifestyle, as much as possible, can help such children lower the risk of chronic health ailments once they survive cancer.