Within the last three decades, childhood cancer survival rates have improved dramatically. Currently, there are 17 million childhood cancer survivors living currently in the United States alone, and 80% of patients with childhood cancer live 5 years or more after treatment. However, many childhood cancer survivors suffer from ‘late effects’ months or years after completing cancer treatments.
Genetics, diagnosis, treatment exposures, and age are the primary factors that determine whether (and when) late effects manifest themselves in childhood cancer survivors. Late effects can be psychological (i.e., depression and anxiety), cognitive (i.e., learning/ memory problems), physiological (i.e., cardiologic, endocrinologic, pulmonary, neurologic, etc.) in nature, and can put survivors at higher risk of secondary cancers, such as skin cancers, breast or thyroid cancers. The type and severity of late effects are usually related to the type of treatment used (i.e., radiation or chemotherapy, and if chemotherapy, which drug class), as well as the dosage.
Professionals recommend that after childhood cancer treatment, regular follow-ups should be conducted in order to monitor the growth and development of the child, as well as to screen for possible late effects that may arise. For more information and to learn about the importance of understanding late effects and prevention, visit the resources below.
Childhood Cancer Survivor Study:
NIH National Cancer Institute:
https://www.cancer.gov/types/childhood-cancers/late-effects-pdqAmerican Cancer Society:
Children’s Oncology Group:www.survivorshipguidelines.org.