More children than ever before are surviving cancer for decades after their original diagnosis. However, survivors can experience long-term health effects from treatment, with the Canadian Cancer Society saying that two-thirds of children will develop one or more of these chronic or long-term conditions.In many ways, researchers and health professionals are playing catch-up trying to figure out what aspect of a childhood cancer experience may be responsible for these late health effects. This is particularly tricky with regards to psychological and neurological effects of treatment and formany chemotherapies, it is still unclear what impact these might have on the developing brain.
Childhood Cancer Survivors have their own unique set of issues that often go unaddressed by health care professionals once treatment has ended and the child enters adulthood. Although the last 20 years have seen growth in survivorship research, this research is rarely filtered down to the people who need it most – the survivors and their families. Dr. Gregory Aune, Pediatric Oncologist, researcher, childhood cancer survivor and advocate, has taken on the position of CKN Editor, Knowledge Translation – Childhood Cancer Survivorship. His goal is simple: to help empower childhood cancer survivors to start a dialogue with their doctors by publishing short, easy-to-read research study summaries, like this one.
2016 has been a big year for me. I’m a research scientist from the UK and this year I published my first scientific paper from an idea which was of my own design. It also marks 22 years since I was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Two separate bits of information, which are uniquely linked. My treatment regimen 22 years ago was similar to protocols that children undergo across the world even now. Although the cure rates for childhood ALL have increased dramatically in the last 22 years, the chemotherapy drugs used remain very similar, as do the side effects from treatment. I remember hating painful asparaginase injections and horrible mood swings and pica caused by steroids, but the worst side effect I personally experienced was after methotrexate.