Science has so revolutionized cancer care that eight of every 10 children with cancer today will survive. Despite their victory over the disease, though, health challenges may remain for many of these patients, even years after cancer fades into their memories.
Many of the 300,000 pediatric cancer survivors in the U.S. encounter serious problems as adults, from trying to obtain affordable health insurance to suffering “late effects”— physical and psychological complications and disability from their illness and treatments.
|City of Hope’s Smita Bhatia studies the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment. (Photo of Darrin S. Joy)|
Knowing that, The Lincy Foundation recently awarded City of Hope’s Pediatric Survivorship Program a $100,000 grant to continue its ground-breaking research and care for these patients. The Pediatric Survivorship Program comprises a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, dietitians and scientists dedicated to standing up for pediatric cancer survivors long after the patients swap their toys and homework for marriage and mortgages.
“The grant will enable us to continue delivering care to today’s pediatric cancer survivors while working to ensure longer and healthier lives for future survivors of childhood cancer,” said Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Center for Cancer Survivorship.
Established in 2002, the Pediatric Survivorship Program seeks to understand and prevent the late effects of childhood cancer and provide long-term follow-up services to the more than 900 pediatric patients who have completed treatment at City of Hope.
Some survivors may forego routine monitoring and care because they are unaware they are at risk for long-term complications, Bhatia said, or they simply cannot find affordable health insurance. Some may seek treatment at more inexpensive community hospitals, where caregivers may be unfamiliar with the complex health needs of cancer survivors.
City of Hope’s pediatric survivorship clinic accepts patients who were diagnosed at age 21 or younger, have been in remission at least five years and have been off therapy for at least two years. There is no upper age limit.
Specialists collect each survivor’s medical history and prepare a thorough survivorship care plan, including recommendations for screenings, prevention, interventions for complications and updates from the survivor’s annual physical. Survivors can take these updates home with them and share them with their primary care doctors or other health professionals.
“This plan is a roadmap for future health-care management and screening unique to the needs of the individual survivor,” explained Bhatia.
City of Hope’s survivorship experts also have helped establish national standards for treatment through the Children’s Oncology Group. These guidelines provide doctors nationwide with information regarding managing the complex issues facing pediatric cancer survivors, including specific recommendations for screening and intervention.
The Lincy Foundation supports humanitarian causes.