Two-thirds of adult survivors of childhood cancer, especially men, are not being properly checked for further cancers or treatment complications, according to a large international study.
Dr. Paul Nathan, the lead study investigator and a staff oncologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, calls the findings “disappointing,” given that 62 per cent of childhood cancer survivors will develop at least one chronic health condition as a result of their early-life disease or disease-related treatment.
Nathan estimates that by the year 2010, one in 450 people ages 20 to 39 will be a survivor of childhood cancer. Compared with their siblings, these survivors have at least a 10-fold increased risk of further cancers, heart problems, lung disease, stroke, joint damage, learning problems and premature menopause.
Nathan’s study involved more than 8,500 Canadian and American survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed between 1970 and 1986 who completed a questionnaire about the health care they had received in the last two years. These participants had an average age of seven years when their disease was discovered and 31 when they were surveyed.
Findings showed that 87 per cent of the survivors reported having general medical contact but only 31 per cent said they had received cancer-related care. Those who were male, younger and those who perceived their health as good or excellent were at an increased risk of not having received basic risk-based care.
Nathan says the situation is complicated by the fact that many adult survivors simply don’t know about the treatments they have received as children. “When patients leave pediatric centres they need documents with data or, better yet, access to computer databases.”