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Study highlights childhood cancer survivors' increased risk of future health problems

New research shows that childhood cancer survivors are hospitalized more frequently, and for longer durations, decades after their initial cancer diagnosis as compared to those without a history of cancer. Based on the findings, study author Anne Kirchhoff, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, advised that patients and families "who have experienced childhood cancer should obtain a cancer treatment summary and recommendations for follow-up care from their oncologist, and coordinate their follow-up care with their oncology and primary care doctors to ensure their health care needs are being managed.”

For the study, which was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Kirchhoff and colleagues recruited nearly 1,500 childhood cancer survivors who were at least five years past their original cancer diagnosis and more than 7,000 individuals who did not have cancer, who served as the control group. According to an American Association for Cancer Research release, study results showed:

... survivors were 52 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and their number of admissions was 67 percent higher, compared with age and sex-matched individuals who did not have cancer. Survivors were also 35 percent more likely to have stayed longer every time they were hospitalized, compared with controls.


More than 10 percent of survivors of central nervous system tumors, neuroblastoma, or malignant bone tumors were hospitalized five or more times during the follow-up period, and the hospital admission rates were approximately two times higher for survivors of neuroblastoma and bone tumors, respectively, compared with controls. “We saw higher rates of hospitalization across most cancer types, but not for all cancers, which gives us clues as to which groups of survivors may need better surveillance in the long term,” said Kirchhoff.

Common reasons for hospitalizations for survivors compared with the controls included conditions like blood disorders (such as anemia) and cancer, although it is unclear if this was for their original cancer diagnosis or new cancers. Infections, nervous system problems, and respiratory problems were other leading reasons for hospitalization.

To follow up on these findings, researchers are planning to further study the reasons survivors are hospitalized and the costs associated with these visits.

Previously: New Stanford-developed method finds tumors in children without exposing them to radiation, Questioning whether physicians are equipped to care for childhood cancer survivors, Cancer survivor: The disease isn’t a “one-off, one-shot deal”, and Surviving pediatric brain cancer

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