Cancer Survivors Not Getting Follow-up Care
June 7, 2007 -- A large percentage of childhood cancer survivors are not getting the follow-up care they need, says a recent study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Although roughly 80 percent of children with cancer are cured, two-thirds later develop a chronic health problem related to their previous cancer or its treatment.
As many as 20 percent of girls and young women who receive chest radiation as part of their treatment will develop breast cancer later in their lives, and up to 50 percent of children who receive high doses for anthracycline-based chemotherapy will develop heart problems.
Because of this, experts recommend that all cancer survivors who underwent anthracycline-based chemotherapy receive an echocardiogram every two years, and those at risk for breast cancer should get yearly mammograms starting at age 25 instead of the generally recommended age 40 or 50. However, the study shows that only 28 percent of those at risk for heart disease got the echocardiograms, and only 49 percent of women received the recommended annual mammograms.
The Institute of Medicine report Childhood Cancer Survivorship: Improving Care and Quality of Life looks at this issue in depth and makes recommendations to improve the system of care for survivors of childhood cancer. In addition, another report on cancer survival, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition, recommends that every cancer patient receive a personal "survivorship care plan" that would summarize their cancer treatment and provide a description of long-term follow-up care needed.