Giving Compass’ Take:
• Rachel Tompa explains that childhood cancer survivors report long-term impacts of the disease on their health and wellbeing later in life.
• How can philanthropy support research into the long-term well-being of childhood cancer patients?
Jasmine Jean is more than 30 years out from her original cancer treatments and her cancer is gone, but the experience is not behind her. “I don’t feel like I’ve ever been cured because the late effects of cancer are so traumatic,” said Jean, who was diagnosed and treated for the rare muscle cancer rhabdomyosarcoma when she was 2 years old.
And some recent childhood cancer survivors — those treated for the bone cancer osteosarcoma or leukemia — actually report worse health complications than survivors of the same diseases treated a decade or more earlier.
Jean was finished with her treatment before she turned 5 — earlier than most children even form lasting memories. Now 36, the Bellingham, Washington, artist remembers much of her time in the hospital with crystal clarity. And the after-effects of her caustic treatments — mostly the high levels of radiation to her left pelvis, where the tumor was removed, and to her abdomen — are still with her.
Not all adult survivors of pediatric cancers suffer long-term effects. But a study published last year looking at data from the CCSS found that 80 percent of adult childhood cancer survivors report chronic health conditions, many of them severe.
What they found surprised them: In the current study, the researchers report that childhood survivors diagnosed and treated in the 1990s are no healthier overall than those treated in the 1970s and ‘80s. And for survivors of certain cancers — namely osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, and various types of leukemia — their overall self-reported health is actually worse.
The researchers don’t know why self-reported health hasn’t improved, but they have a few theories. One is simply that the increased rate of survival in more recent decades means that those whose lives were saved are likely those who had the most severe disease — those who were more likely to have died if treated decades before — and thus received the most aggressive treatments.
Read the full article about childhood cancer survivors by Rachel Tompa at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
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