1. Each year, more children diagnosed with cancer will be cured, joining the growing population of long-term childhood cancer survivors.
Thanks to advances in chemotherapy, radiation and surgical techniques, more children and adolescents are being cured of cancer every year. Today, there are over 420,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the United States, representing approximately 1 in 750 young adults, and that number is expected to exceed 500,000 by the year 2020.
2. As survivors age, they experience health problems years or decades earlier than their peers.
Currently, almost all survivors have lasting effects from their cancer treatment. Survivors experience a higher risk of heart disease, strokes, fertility challenges and second cancers among other health issues early in life. This is sometimes called “premature aging.”
3. In addition to the risks to physical health, many survivors experience depression and anxiety, with some meeting criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anxiety and depression can have a profound impact on wellness, even in those with excellent physical health. Knowing the signs of anxiety or depression, recognizing that these do not represent a failure or weakness and accepting help can greatly improve survivor wellness.
4. As researchers have learned more about the late effects of cancer treatment, this has impacted how doctors treat children newly diagnosed with cancer.
As a result, more survivors are living longer. The risk of an early death among survivors dropped in half for children treated for cancer in the 1990s when compared to those treated in the 1970s.
5. More time is being dedicated to survivorship care.
Understanding the exposures and developing a lifelong, personalized, risk-based screening plan is critical to maintaining wellness for survivors. In fact, the care of survivors of childhood cancer has developed into its own medical subspecialty, with a few centers across the country even offering specialized fellowship training in survivorship.
There are many different models for long-term follow-up programs. Some centers follow patients for life, while others have transition programs where childhood cancer survivors who are now adults can be followed in adult-centered programs that focus on childhood cancer survivor health risks.
For survivors, finding a center that can provide individualized, risk-based survivorship care has become easier, but it is up to the survivors to take that first step and contact the center to establish care.
We’re funding research to give childhood cancer survivors long, healthy lives. You can help.
Read stories of childhood cancer survivors: