Childhood cancer survival is one of the greatest success stories of medicine in recent years. Since the 1970’s, the cure rate and number of survivors has grown dramatically. Currently, the size of the population surviving childhood cancer is at least 270,000 with almost 80% of children diagnosed before the age of 21 surviving at least 5 years after diagnosis. (National Cancer Institute, 2008). As the number of survivors of childhood cancer continues to grow, so does knowledge of the late effects of cancer treatment.
What is a late effect?
A late effect is a chronic or late-occurring medical condition that persists or develops because of the cancer or its treatment.
More than two-thirds of young adult survivors of childhood cancer eventually experience at least one “late effect,” with some survivors experiencing more. Late effects can occur in any organ or system of the body and vary from person to person.
- Some late effects may be serious or life threatening.
- They can be influenced by the original cancer diagnosis, age at diagnosis, gender, treatment, family history, aging process, and overall health.
- Some late effects will be visible, such as amputation of a limb or removal of an eye. Some will require testing in order to diagnose.
- Late effects may occur anytime following treatment and throughout adulthood.
- Late effects can often be prevented, controlled, or improved if anticipated and detected early.
The Late Effects Clinic at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine
An awareness of the late side effects of cancer therapy is essential for cancer survivors as well as their friends, family, and caregivers. Regular, long-term medical follow up as well as social support is as important as treating the cancer. At Washington University School of Medicine and Saint Louis Children’s Hospital, the transition to long-term follow up will usually occur about two years after treatment is completed.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 314.454.5437 or 800.678.5437 or email us.
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