Survivors treated in more recent decades have fewer severe health problems thanks to improvements in cancer treatments over time

New study results demonstrate that survivorship research leads to improved health for survivors (In press 2018)

Published: 11/1/2018

Healthy Life

In 2016, the LTFU Study published an important research paper showing that LTFU Study participants who were treated in more recent eras were living longer lifespans. Now, a new study has demonstrated that, overall, survivors who were treated more recently also suffer from fewer severe chronic health problems.

Dr. Todd Gibson, the Project Director of the Long-Term Follow-Up Study, led the study team for this new analysis. The team used data from more than 23,000 LTFU Study participants diagnosed from 1970 through 1999 to examine survivors’ experience of severe treatment-related health conditions.

Comparing survivors diagnosed in the 1970s to those diagnosed in the 1990s, the study showed that the occurrence of severe health problems 15 years after childhood cancer diagnosis decreased from:

  • 13 percent to 5 percent among survivors of Wilms tumor (a type of kidney cancer)
  • 18 percent to 11 percent among survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma
  • 15 percent to 9 percent among survivors of astrocytoma (the second most common childhood cancer)
  • 10 percent to 6 percent among survivors of non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • 9 percent to 7 percent among survivors of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (the most common childhood cancer)

Hormone problems, musculoskeletal conditions, and second cancers decreased for many survivors. However, the occurrence of heart disease and lung problems did not decrease.

What does this mean for you?

 “The improvements in survivors’ health overall were very encouraging,” says Dr. Gibson. “As efforts continue to identify less toxic cancer treatments, we are likely to see even more improvements in future survivors’ health."

Dr. Gibson noted that improvements to treatments over time have differed by the type of cancer diagnosis. Because of this, some diagnosis groups experienced greater decreases in severe conditions than others. In addition, he said, “improved understanding of the way cancers respond to treatment has enabled doctors to reduce treatment intensity for patients with low-risk disease, while those with high-risk disease receive more intense treatments aimed at increasing survival. So, although the overall occurrence of severe conditions later in life was lower for more recently diagnosed survivors, cure continues to come with substantial cost for some survivors.”

Because the risk of chronic treatment-related problems remains for many survivors, Dr. Gibson emphasized that, "Both survivors and health care providers should be aware of the health risks linked to specific cancer diagnoses and treatments in order to ensure that survivors get the follow-up care they need to maintain their health."

Reference

Gibson TM, Mostoufi-Moab S, Stratton KL, et al. Temporal patterns in the risk of chronic health conditions among survivors of childhood cancer diagnosed 1970-1999: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study cohort. Lancet Oncol. (In Press)