Childhood cancer survivors face more chronic illnesses

Childhood cancer survivors face more chronic illnesses

Childhood cancer treatments make survivors feel like older adults.

The experience of surviving a bout with cancer as a child takes quite a toll on the future health of the survivor, and, according to new research, can make young adults who faced the disease feel as if they are older than their age indicates.

Chief medical officer Dr. Lisa Diller, of Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, reports the findings of the study “indicate survivors’ accelerated aging, and also help us understand the health-related risks associated with having had cancer as a child,” according to a report from UPI.

The study indicates the more chronic health problems noted by the survivors of childhood cancer, the lower their health-related quality-of-life scores were, not really a surprising finding.  But while the researchers reviewed one study, with over 7,000 pediatric cancer survivors, 80 percent of those individuals reported chronic conditions later in life.

Earlier research has associated childhood cancer with an increased risk of heart disease, lung disease, infertility, more cancers, and other chronic conditions, mainly resulting from treatments for the pediatric cancers, such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.

The interesting finding from the research was the quality-of-life scores for 18-to 29-year-olds in the data were similar to the general population of adults that were in their 40s.  In other words, the younger adults that had survived the cancers felt as if they were a number of years older than those in their age group that had not experienced cancer as a child.

Dr. Diller said, in a statement from the center, “This research provides an easily accessible way to compare adult survivors of childhood cancer to the general population, in terms of their health-related quality of life, which normally declines as people age.”

She also added prevention of treatment-related conditions in cancer therapy could result in the disease becoming acute, instead of chronic for the patients.  “What’s encouraging is that the lower quality-of-life scores are associated with chronic disease after treatment, not with a history of pediatric cancer itself,” she explained.

Findings from the research were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute earlier this week.

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