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Long-Term Health Not Improved for Childhood Cancer Survivors

Those treated in 1990s more likely to report pain and poor health as adults, researchers say

TUESDAY, Nov. 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Despite three decades of advancements in treating children with cancer, patients who survive into adulthood don’t report better physical or mental health than their counterparts who were treated years ago, according to research published online Nov. 8 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the new review, led by St. Jude, researchers from Toronto and across the United States reviewed information from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. The research involved 14,566 adults, now ages 18 to 48, who survived five or more years after diagnosis. All were treated as children between 1970 and 1999. The analysis relied on patients’ own reports of their overall physical and mental health, ability to function, activity limitations, and cancer-related anxiety or pain.

The proportion of patients reporting severe, disabling, or life-threatening chronic conditions declined from 33.4 percent among those treated from 1970 to 1979 to 21.0 percent among those who were treated from 1990 to 1999. Yet reports of adverse health outcomes did not decline by generation. Leukemia and osteosarcoma survivors, in particular, reported sharply higher rates of adverse outcomes. More than a third (36.6 percent) of osteosarcoma patients treated in the 1990s reported cancer-related pain, for example. For those osteosarcoma patients treated in the 1970s, about a quarter (23.9 percent) said they had cancer-related pain. Some survivors reported significant difficulty getting around or performing day-to-day activities. Anxiety was also a common issue.

Study author Kirsten Ness, P.T., Ph.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., told HealthDay that the findings can help inform future clinical trials, with the goal of devising treatments that are less toxic. The study also points to the need for better follow-up care, including treatment for smoking, drinking, lack of exercise, and poor diet, which were associated with adverse health outcomes in the study.

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