Should you be concerned about your future health?

Not all survivors need to be concerned, but knowing the health risks you face is crucial to protecting your health.

Published: 6/01/2018

Health risk spelled out in building blocks

Cancer therapies that children receive today are less toxic than they used to be, thanks in part to information provided by our Study participants.

Even so, almost all treatments are linked to some risk for future health problems.  New LTFU Study research has discovered that many survivors say they’re not concerned about their future health. That may not be a problem for some. However, many survivors who are actually at high risk of developing a serious health condition because of their childhood treatments noted they were not concerned.

Dr. Todd Gibson, LTFU Project Director, led the team that conducted this study. They looked at survey responses from more than 15,000 adult survivors of childhood cancer and almost 4,000 siblings. The survivors were an average of 26 years old and 17 years from their childhood diagnosis. The team found that:

  • Three out of 10 (31 percent) survivors said they were not concerned about their future health. Four out of 10 (40 percent) were not concerned about developing a new cancer.
  • Survivors who received high doses of radiation (20 Gray or more) were slightly more concerned about their future health than other survivors.
  • But even in this high-risk group 35 percent said they were not concerned about developing another cancer and 24 percent said they were not concerned about their overall future health.

What does this mean for you?

A “healthy” concern for the future can be an asset for protecting your health. Knowing your treatment history and understanding your potential health risks are important things you can do to make sure you stay healthy. With this knowledge you can educate your health care providers about medical screenings you need to help find any potential problems early when they can most successfully be treated.  In fact, this study showed that survivors who had a treatment-related risk of heart disease were more likely to get a screening echocardiogram if they reported they were concerned about their future health.

If you’re not sure what treatments you received, contact the center where you were treated and ask for a treatment summary.  Share this summary with all your health care providers. You can also inform them about the Children’s Oncology Group survivorship guidelines. The guidelines are a resource for health care professionals who care for survivors. They list the medical screenings recommended for individuals based on the treatments they received. Find the guidelines online at: http://survivorshipguidelines.org/

Knowing your risk and keeping up with screenings can help you protect both your health and your peace of mind, whether you find yourself worrying too much or are unconcerned about your future health.

Reference

Gibson TM, Li C, Armstrong GT, et al. Perceptions of future health and cancer risk in adult survivors of childhood cancer: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Cancer, in press.