Health Watch -- After Cancer

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

For children with cancer, beating the disease may be only one part of a long-term battle.
With improving cancer treatments, more and more children are surviving childhood cancers and living to see adulthood. But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found that problems associated with cancer or with cancer treatment may follow these children throughout their lives.

In a major study of more than 10,000 survivors of childhood cancer conducted at UT Southwestern and 25 other institutions, researchers found that nearly half of all survivors faced at least one significant medical problem later in life caused by their cancer or cancer treatment. The cancer survivors were evaluated in six areas, including general health, mental health, physical functioning, activity limitations, pain, and fears or anxiety related to the cancer. For comparison, researchers also studied healthy siblings of cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors had more problems in all categories than the healthy subjects. Women and survivors from lower-income households were most likely to have long-term problems.

Dr. Kevin Oeffinger, the UT Southwestern doctor who was the study’s senior author, says cancer treatments like radiation, chemotherapy and surgery affect all of the body’s organ systems -- and that the effects of these treatments can lead to problems later in life. Dr. Oeffinger says doctors need to look at long-term effects of cancer treatments and be aware of potential future health problems.