The study shows there is no improvement in quality of life after child cancer despite living longer.
The last three decades has seen a huge advancement in the way cancer in early childhood is treated. While the survival rates are higher than before and children living much longer into adulthood, the quality of life has still not seeing much improvement at all.
A new study was conducted to see how much childhood cancer has changed over the last 30 years. More than 14,000 people aged between 18 and 48 took part in the study, all of which suffered from cancer as a child between 1970 and 1999 who lived across North America. Many different cancers were analyzed but the researchers mainly focused in cancers of the blood such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and those that were treated for solid tumors.
Participants were asked to rate their overall health, particularly mental health, anxiety levels, pain and any health limitations in activities. The results were quite shocking – even though as the treatments got more advanced and survivors living for longer, the quality of health has not improved with those being treated in the 1990s actually reporting worse health problems than those treated in earlier years.
“I kept looking at the data, thinking, ‘This can’t be right,’ ” said Kirsten Ness, a physiotherapist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and co-author of the study. “We were sort of expecting that they wouldn’t have as many problems with their perceived health as survivors who were treated in earlier generations.”
It’s thought that although new treatments have progressed in terms of tackling the cancer, the side effects are much stronger and debilitating in the long run. The authors say ongoing consultations and support from doctors is important after cancer treatment offering advice on managing pain and wellbeing.
“The current study reemphasizes that one of the significant challenges ahead is to find ways to improve quality of life and health for all survivors of childhood cancer,” stated Ness.
Details of the study were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.