Future problems for childhood cancer survivors

If you develop cancer during your childhood and survive it, you are more likely to suffer from hair loss and/or disfigurement during your adult years, resulting in possible long-term emotional problems. This is the claims of a new American study published last week in the ‘Journal of Clinical Oncology’.

Karen Kinahan, coordinator of the ‘STAR Survivorship Program at the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago’ and her team studied data from 14,358 childhood cancer survivors and compared this information against 4,023 of their siblings who were already involved in a separate scientific study.  All 14,358 were survivors who had received their treatment between the years 1970 and 1986 and were given two questionnaires, one in 1992 and another one in 2003.

When compared, it was noted than those who had survived cancer during childhood actually had notably more scarring and disfigurement on their legs, arms and head areas during later years in their life and that adults with these attributes, usually will suffer from more depression and lead a worse quality of life.

Kinahan commented on the results, “I think it showed us these aren’t necessarily life-threatening late effects of cancer, but certainly we need to be more aware of the outcomes these patients are dealing with”.  The study explained that survivors with persistent hair loss had more of a chance of having anxiety, female survivors with persistent hair loss were more likely to display signs of a depressive nature, and survivors who had been left with disfigurements on their body had an increased chance of depression.

Indeed if we further look at the statistics, 14% of survivors had reported that they were going bald, compared to 6% of their siblings. Hair loss was especially associated with depression in the female survivors. In addition, those who reported scars or disfigurements had a 20% higher chance of having depression in comparison to those without such issues. It was shown that overall, ¼ of survivors had a scar or disfigurement later in life, whilst it was just one in twelve for their siblings. Quality of life was shown to be effected in negative ways for those who had survived cancer in such circumstances as mental health, general pain, physical ability and their social interaction skills.

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