April 12, 2024

Ensuring Long-Term Health for Childhood Cancer Survivors Study Reveals Gaps in Surveillance

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal sheds light on the inadequate follow-up care received by survivors of childhood cancer, putting them at risk for serious long-term health issues. Despite guidelines recommending regular screenings for adult cancers and other late effects of cancer therapy, a large percentage of childhood cancer survivors (CCS) are not up to date with these important tests.

Research shows that up to 80% of childhood cancer survivors will experience severe or life-threatening effects, such as heart disease and colorectal and breast cancer, by the age of 45 due to their cancer treatments. The risk of developing colorectal cancer is significantly higher for these survivors compared to the general population, and female survivors who received chest radiation therapy have a similar breast cancer risk to those with a genetic mutation.

Dr. Jennifer Shuldiner, along with her co-authors, emphasizes the poor surveillance for late effects in adult CCS, leaving many survivors vulnerable to preventable harm. The study, based on data from 3,241 CCS in Ontario, revealed that a large proportion of survivors were at elevated risk for various late effects due to their treatment history. However, adherence to recommended screenings for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and cardiomyopathy was found to be low.

The authors attribute the low adherence rates to a lack of awareness among survivors, family physicians, and specialists about the potential long-term consequences of cancer treatments. Even survivors attending specialized cancer survivor clinics showed poor rates of screening compliance, highlighting a critical need for increased education and awareness.

Dr. Paul Nathan, from the AfterCare Program at SickKids, underscores the importance of providing adequate health care and surveillance for CCS to ensure their long-term well-being. To address these challenges, a province-wide study is set to launch, focusing on implementing periodic surveillance reminders for survivors and their doctors to improve compliance with screening recommendations.

Improving adherence to surveillance guidelines among CCS requires a collaborative effort between cancer care systems, survivor support networks, and individual patients. By enhancing education, advocacy, and support mechanisms, healthcare providers can help childhood cancer survivors lead healthier lives and mitigate the risk of long-term complications.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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