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Childhood cancer survivors may face shortened lifespan, study reveals
Date:4/6/2010

m more recent cohorts of patients, there will be improved life expectancy as a result of some changes that pediatric oncologists have made."

For example, pediatric cancer doctors have been tweaking treatment regimens to minimize harm to normal tissues and organs while assuring that treatments remain effective for cancer control. Radiation beams are being more tightly focused on the cancer, oncologists are avoiding chemotherapy agents that can damage particular organs, and some children are receiving drugs aimed at preventing toxicity to these organs along with their cancer drugs.

Yeh said there is often a "disconnect" when young patients, following successful treatment, switch to a primary care physician for adult care. "Many times the primary care physicians aren't as familiar with the history of the treatments and the higher risks" of serious complications their patients face, she said.

Diller added that because most physicians will see very few patients with a history of childhood cancer, they may not be alert to symptoms that could signal a recurrence or a new cancer. For example, she said, the common complaint of heartburn would normally not be cause for great concern in someone without a prior history of cancer, but in a survivor, it should be investigated as a possible indicator of stomach cancer.

"It is not reasonable to expect a primary care doctor who has one childhood cancer survivor in his or her practice to know about all the prior treatments used and their long-term after-effects," said Diller. "As pediatric oncologists we should be arming the patient transitioning to adult primary care with personalized information about their treatment, and creating a survivorship care plan for them."

The additional risks of illness and death conferred by childhood cancer and its treatments have been studied previously, but findings were not translated into estimated life expectancy, said the scientists. Their new research
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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