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Cancer leaves mark on children
Child
Children struggle to cope with the effects of cancer
Children who beat cancer pay a price for their battle with the disease - the vast majority have a legacy of physical or psychological problems.

Two investigations into the health and happiness of survivors, by experts in the Netherlands and Birmingham in the UK, found that the severity of treatment needed to rid them of cancer often left its mark.


Some patients are really reluctant to enter into long terms relationships because they are frightened about passing their cancer on to their children

Professor Jill Mann
At Birmingham Children's Hospital, staff have built up a database from years of check-ups carried out on their patients.

Those who are still alive three years following treatment were asked about continuing health problems - along with any other difficulties they were encountering.

Only 16% of them reported no problems at all. Most said they were having one or more problems, while some reported five or six.

Educational problems

Many of these were physical - problems with damage to organs such as the kidney and heart caused by radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Some others had suffered a permanent loss of fertility after treatment - or had not fared well educationally following therapy for brain tumours.

Only one out of 100 patients who had survived a brain or central nervous system cancer said he was having no trouble as a result.

Professor Jill Mann, from Birmingham Children's Hospital, said that while some patients were not fazed by scars left by operations, some others were still distressed by them.

Others, she said, were still suffering the mental scars.

She said: "There are 10,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the UK.

"Some patients are really reluctant to enter into long terms relationships because they are frightened about passing their cancer on to their children."

In all, one in five survivors reported some form of psychological problems following their cancer treatment.

Growing numbers

She said that the growing success of childhood cancer treatments meant that paediatric oncology departments were responsible for following up the cases of many hundreds of patients - a task which is stretching them to the limit.

She said: "It's becoming more inappropriate for a huge number of adults to be seen in a paediatric setting."

Professor Mann called for dedicated teams to be set up to deal with the long-term survivors of child cancer treatments.

However, she did list some of the success stories who have passed through Birmingham Children's Hospital's doors in the past decades.

These include children who are now athletes, a classical violinist and a junior grand master chess champion.

In addition, among those now past 18 years of age, 40% are married or in a relationship, 18% have children, and 77% are in employment.

Birmingham's findings echoed those of at the Emma Kinderziekenhuis children's hospital in Amsterdam, which found that every survivor had an average of 1.7 "serious problems" - brain tumour survivors averaged 4.2.

The European Cancer Conference - full coverage

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THE DISEASE
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