Understanding childhood cancer survivors' concerns about their health

Both adult survivors of childhood cancer and their siblings may be understandably concerned about health-related issues.

Published: 05/15/16

Health worries of childhood cancer survivors

Since they shared many of the same experiences in childhood, both adult survivors of childhood cancer and their siblings may be understandably concerned about health-related issues. LTFU Study investigators wanted to learn more about our participants’ health concerns.

Past LTFU Study surveys have included questions that used a five-point scale to help participants rate their level of concern about health-related issues. The team who conducted this study, led by Dr. Todd Gibson, looked at survey responses of 9,196 survivors and 3,106 adult siblings of survivors. These participants rated their level of concern about the following issues:

  • Their future health
  • Their ability to have children
  • Their ability to get health insurance
  • Their likelihood of developing a new cancer

More than 30 percent of the survivors and almost 23 percent of the siblings reported that they were very concerned about their future health. In addition, survivors who had been treated with radiation were more likely than siblings or other survivors to be very concerned about this issue.  The ability to get health insurance was concerning to a smaller proportion of both survivors  (16 percent very concerned) and siblings (6 percent very concerned).

Overall, survivors were more likely to be very concerned about health-related issues compared to siblings. But the researchers noted that the level of concern did not always match the actual risk.

What does this mean for you?

Worrying about health concerns can have a negative effect on your well-being. You can minimize worries by understanding the risk factors that are linked to common health problems. Additionally, practicing good health habits like getting physical exercise and eating a healthy diet can help you stay healthy and give you a sense of control over your health.

If you are a survivor, knowing details about your cancer treatment can equip you to understand the actual health risks you face. We urge all survivors to inform their healthcare providers about their cancer history and treatment. If you don’t have one, ask your oncologist or someone at your treating institution for a survivorship care plan, a document that includes details of your treatment history and the recommended health screenings that are right for you.

Finally, if concerns about your health become hard to manage, please talk them over with your doctor. Knowing the actual risks you face can save you from unnecessary worry – and help you understand the steps you can take to stay healthy. 

Reference

Patient-reported levels of concern in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Gibson TM, Li C, Armstrong GT, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2016, 34, no. 15 suppl, 10576-10576.