Num­ber of child can­cer sur­vivors quadru­ples in US, Canada: re­searchers

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Mod­ern medicine has made huge strides when it comes to treat­ing chil­dren with can­cer, and four times as many youths now sur­vive can­cer com­pared to decades ago, re­searchers said Sun­day.

Life ex­pectancy af­ter a battle with pe­di­atric can­cer is also longer than it used to be, ac­cord­ing to the find­ings re­leased at the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Clin­i­cal On­col­ogy (ASCO) an­nual meet­ing.

The study was based on an anal­y­sis of more than 34,000 par­tic­i­pants in the fed­er­ally funded Child­hood Can­cer Sur­vivor Study, which fol­lows five-year sur­vivors of child­hood can­cer di­ag­nosed be­tween 1970 and 1999 at 31 U.S. and Canadian hos­pi­tals.

“Fifty years ago, only one in five chil­dren would sur­vive can­cer, and to­day over 80 per­cent are alive five years af­ter di­ag­no­sis,” said lead study au­thor Gre­gory Arm­strong, a pe­di­atric on­col­o­gist at St. Jude Chil­dren’s Re­search Hos­pi­tal.

Child can­cer sur­vivors still face an in­creased risk of heart dis­ease and a sec­ond can­cer in the fu­ture, but im­prove­ments have been made by of­fer­ing more re­fined and less harsh treat­ments than in the past, he added.

“Now, we’ve not only helped more chil­dren sur­vive their pri­mary can­cer, but we’ve also ex­tended their over­all life­span by re­duc­ing the over­all tox­i­c­ity of treat­ment in more mod­ern eras.”

Re­searchers found that among chil­dren who live five years af­ter a di­ag­no­sis — those known as fiveyear sur­vivors — only six per­cent are ex­pected to die in 15 years’ time.

That’s a big im­prove­ment over the 1970s, when there was a 12.4 per­cent mor­tal­ity rate among chil­dren with can­cer af­ter 15 years.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has also shown that nearly one in five chil­dren who sur­vived their can­cer di­ag­no­sis would die within 30 years of other causes, such as a re­turn of the can­cer, health prob­lems linked to their can­cer, ac­ci­dents or sui­cides.

In the present study, chil­dren who sur­vived five years af­ter di­ag­no­sis were fol­lowed for 21 years. Dur­ing that time, nearly 4,000 (12 per­cent) died, in­clud­ing 1,618 (41 per­cent) from de­layed ef­fects of can­cer treat­ment.

In ad­di­tion, deaths from any cause were cut in half over the course of two decades: 12.4 per­cent of pa­tients di­ag­nosed in the early 1970s died within 15 years of di­ag­no­sis, com­pared to only six per­cent of those di­ag­nosed in the early 1990s.

“Sur­vivors di­ag­nosed in more re­cent years had a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant lower risk of dy­ing from other health-re­lated causes in­clud­ing sec­ond can­cer, and heart or lung dis­ease,” said the study.

Re­searchers cred­ited a grad­ual re­fine­ment of treat­ment, in­clud­ing lower in­ten­sity treat­ment for many pe­di­atric can­cers, for the gains in sur­vival.

“While the mod­ern­iza­tion of can­cer ther­apy has prob­a­bly made the most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, im­prove­ments in sup­port­ive care for sur­vivors, and screen­ing, de­tec­tion, and treat­ment of late ef­fects, like new can­cers and heart and lung dis­ease, have played an im­por­tant role in ex­tend­ing their life­span as well,” said Arm­strong.

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