Childhood cancer survivors need to be monitored for complications, study says

Although patients survived cancer, damage to their bodies from treatment can cause long-term pulmonary and cardiovascular events.
By Stephen Feller  |  Aug. 15, 2016 at 5:25 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Cancer treatment has improved significantly, leading to many more survivors of childhood cancer, but researchers say better monitoring of survivors is needed because of long-term damage from the treatment.

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles found survivors self-reported significant complications later in life, from subsequent cancer to pulmonary and cardiovascular events, as a result of damage to lung tissue during treatment during childhood.

The high rate of pulmonary conditions experienced by survivors has increased in recent years, the researchers report, because of improvements in treatment and longer lifespan.

For the study, published in the journal Cancer, researchers analzyed the incidence of pulmonary outcomes -- asthma, chronic cough, emphysema, lung fibrosis, oxygen need and recurrent pneumonia -- among 14,316 5-year cancer survivors and the incidence of death due to pulmonary causes among all 20,690 childhood cancer survivors who participated in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Survivors were then compared to 4,027 siblings for health conditions they developed.

By age 45, the incidence of pulmonary conditions among cancer survivors was 29.6 percent, compared to 26.5 percent of siblings. Survivors were found to be more likely to have chronic cough, oxygen need, lung fibrosis and recurrent pneumonia despite reporting lower rates of smoking than siblings.

"This study adds to our understanding of specific, long-term risks to pulmonary health for survivors of childhood cancer, and will help refine guidelines for appropriate screening, health surveillance and counseling," Dr. Daniel Mulrooney, a researcher at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, said in a press release.

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