Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer Essay

Submitted By Kristi5
Words: 1868
Pages: 8

Adult Survivors of Childhood Cancer It is estimated that one out of 640 adults ages 25 to 39 years in the United States is a survivor of childhood cancer.(Huh) In 1973, at the age of two, an x-ray showed a shadow in my chest which was a solid growing out of my spinal cord called ganglioneuroblastoma. A surgeon removed the portion not in the spine. The next step of treatment was radiation to kill the remainder in the spine. Every three months for the next 5 years I had a follow-up appointment. A patient surviving 5 years after the original date of the cancer with out a reoccurrence is said to be cancer free with a minimal chance of reoccurrence. Before 1970, there was little chance of survival for children diagnosed with cancer but today three fourths of children make it past the critical five-year mark. (Kalb) There is increasing evidence childhood cancer survivors have social, psychological, cognitive problems, and health issues. (Huh). The definition of late effects is health issues linked to treatment courses that may not develop for many years later. (Kalb.) Not one doctor warned me of any potential risks to be aware of in the distance future. I asked myself how many adult survivors are informed about the possibility of future complications that can happen decades later. The research shows not very many survivors know the reality. The three most common treatments are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and all linked to late effects. The list of late effects is very broad and wide. Studies show that survivors are at increased risk of educational deficits, unemployable, and difficulties getting health insurance. In addition, other studies show that childhood cancer survivors are at increased risk of chronic health issues that include early stroke and heart disease. (Huh) There are over 200 health issues ranging from cataracts, hearing loss, lung disease, and secondary cancers related to the late effects of the treatments. (“Childhood”) Although, some survivors never have any long-term late effects, it is the exception not the rule. Many factors can contribute to late effects, the kind of treatment, age and the type of cancer. Thirty years after diagnoses, almost three fourths of survivors have a chronic health condition, more than 40 percent have a serious health problem, and one third has multiple conditions.(“FDA”) I just happen to fall into the one third category of the population and I am 36 year survivor. “Adult survivors of pediatric cancer who were treated in the 1970’s and 80’s are a high risk population” authors conclude, “the incidence of health conditions reported by this population with time and does not appear to level off.” (“Childhood”) Women are 50 percent more likely than men to have a chronic health conditions including two or more, or a severe life threatening condition. (“Childhood Cancer”) Seven percent of deaths among survivors were due to a recurrence of the original cancer. While 77 percent of deaths of childhood cancer survivors were caused by new cancers, heart disease, and strokes. (“Cancer Survivors”) Radiation to the chest area and some types of chemotherapy can cause both heart and lung damage and may not appear until later in life. Studies of late effects are being vigorously ongoing as the population grows and they are living longer.
A secondary cancer is a different type of cancer that appears after the original cancer diagnosis. (“Late Effects”) Often these secondary cancers form from the treatment used to cure the cancer. The therapies used are carcinogens with a risk that 3 to 12 percent of survivors will develop a second cancer within 20 years. (Child w/ Cancer 387) Those at a greater risk were treated with higher radiation. In the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s patients received more radiation to normal tissues around the tumor. (Keene and Hobbie) The type of malignancy depends on the radiation site and the amount delivered. Any sort of