Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has a long-term follow-up program for childhood cancer survivors. It’s designed to help survivors and their families deal with later effects of their disease and treatment.
Even when children are cured of cancer, their cancer history and treatment can affect their health for years to come. As many as two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors have adverse long-term effects. Some may be clear early on. For instance, some children who received radiation therapy to their brain may have learning difficulties. These children may need support to rejoin school successfully.
Many effects are not clear or relevant until later in life. For instance, some children who received the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin may develop cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. This heart condition may not cause symptoms. But it can put women survivors at higher risk of heart failure during pregnancy and delivery. So it’s important for women and their doctors to know about this.
The long-term risks for each childhood cancer survivor depend on many factors, including the type of disease, the treatments they received and their age at the time of treatment. The long-term follow-up program starts with a comprehensive review of the survivor’s treatment and health. Then each survivor gets a notebook of information that applies to their unique situation.