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Cancer, Pediatrics, Public Health, Research

Questioning whether physicians are equipped to care for childhood cancer survivors

Questioning whether physicians are equipped to care for childhood cancer survivors

You’ve likely seen the headlines today that Americans’ risk of dying of cancer has declined 20 percent over the past two decades. The encouraging drop in deaths from cancer has translated into a growing population of survivors of the disease, particularly among children. But recent findings question whether the physician community is prepared to provide care for young cancer survivors when they reach adulthood.

In the study (subscription required), researchers surveyed more than 1,100 general internists and inquired about their knowledge of the special medical needs, such as  increased screening, of these patients. HealthDay reports:

Between 25 percent and 37 percent said they would be at least “somewhat comfortable” caring for a childhood cancer survivor. Their responses varied based on the type of cancer the patient had, the researchers reported.

When asked about screening guidelines for childhood cancer survivors, most physicians did not know the guidelines well enough to make an appropriate recommendation for their patients.

Only 9 percent understood that women exposed to chest radiation as children need annual mammography and breast MRI scans. More than 40 percent said they weren’t sure of the guidelines.

Just 15 percent knew that childhood chemotherapy patients need an echocardiogram every other year to check for heart problems. More than half said they would not proceed with further echocardiograms, and another 19 percent said they weren’t sure of the guidelines.

To increase internists’ knowledge about this patient population, researchers encouraged doctors to spend time working at a cancer survivor’s program, and advised pediatric oncologists to educate patients on the necessary medical information needed by their future physicians and to partner with patients’ adult health-care providers to improve transition of care.

Beyond cancer, the United States has become a nation of survivors – many of whom have unique health needs. As reported in a past issue of Stanford Medicine, in addition to those who have beaten cancer, one in 45 adults has survived a stroke and hundreds of thousands survive a heart attack each year.

Previously: Cancer survivor: The disease isn’t a “one-off, one-shot deal”, Report forecasts U.S. cancer survivors to increase to 18 million in a decade, Helping kids love life after cancer and Surviving pediatric brain cancer

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