Finding support after survival

by Sven Parkel @ 22.09.2017

Finding support after survival

Thanks to the new effective treatments, the childhood cancer survival rates are up to 80% in developed countries. In addition, governments are investing in better treatments and better future for the childhood cancer survivors. Good examples are Norway and Spain.

Thanks to the new effective treatments, the childhood cancer survival rates are up to 80% in developed countries. In addition, governments are investing in better treatments and better future for the childhood cancer survivors. Good examples are Norway and Spain.

Norway has a cancer strategy for 2013-2017 that addresses children and young people [Together – against cancer, National Cancer Strategy 2013-2017, Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services]. They set the goal to keep young patients in the children oncology centres until 18 years of age due to the special needs and treatments of the children. In many cases it is believed that also young people between 18 and 26 years of age could benefit from the treatments meant for kids. Norway recognizes that kids need follow-up in regard of their everyday life after treatments and that should be the role of health clinics, school health services and family doctors.

Spain approved a cancer strategy in 2006 where children and adolescents are looked as a separate group as pediatric cancers are very different from adult-onset cancers in many characteristics, but also as children have a higher need for education and better environment for maturing. Today, every 2000th adult is a survivor of childhood cancer in Spain and they acknowledge both the primary (related to diagnosis and treatment) and secondary (after treatment) social and psychological problems the cancer patient will face.

The good news is the treatments for cancer are getting better and better in the developed countries. There will be around 500 000 childhood cancer survivors by the 2020 in US alone and they are already preparing to tend to the side effects the treatments may have caused. While psychological effects of beating a deadly disease are often feared, there are reasons to be optimistic – many survivors report good general psychological state and have changed outlook to their lives.

But as a recent study shows, although there are surveillance strategies and long-term follow-up guidelines, many health service providers are not aware of these opportunities1. Also, it turns out, often the health risks of the treatments are not clearly understood by patients and even doctors2, thus a summary for future care or a “survivorship” plan has been proposed. But only less than one third of survivors report of getting a care plan for the future1.

Special attention must be provided to the new group of individuals that have survived cancer, as they may have unique needs due to the treatment process. Always ask your doctor or local support communities about programs for childhood cancer survivors, because many of innovative solutions are already available and more will be developed.

1Suh E, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:11-7.

2Oeffinger KC. Curr Probl Cancer. 2003;27:143-67.