The title of this recent Time Health & Family piece; Childhood Cancer Survivors Have Significant Chronic Disease, June 12, 2013, should not be a surprise to anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of the plight of children with cancer. I suppose that this is where the real problem rests. Those of us in the childhood cancer community realize that the term “cure” rings hollow on many levels. The piece boils down to this simple finding: 98% of childhood cancer survivors had at least one chronic long-term health condition as a result of the treatments that “cured” them. Think about that for one minute. Nearly each and every child that we label “cured” is left with some long-term, and in many instances life threatening, chronic condition as a result of the outdated and toxic treatments that we infuse into their bodies.
Thus, when many institutions, including the one that conducted the study, trumpet the fact that 80% of children with cancer are cured; we must look upon this message with jaundiced eyes. It is simply inaccurate and misleading to label children as cured when most if not all of them will face a lifetime of chronic health issues, secondary malignancies and morbid conditions that in many instances lead to the child’s premature death.
The piece highlights what we have known in the community for years; we are in desperate need of new drugs and less toxic therapies. And more importantly, simple labels do not fit within the childhood cancer community. Cure does not necessarily mean a life without chronic issues. We must do better for these children. We must not fool ourselves into thinking that we are winning this war without significant casualties.