Published on March 13, 2020
There have been exciting advances in treatments for childhood cancers such as leukemia that have enabled patients to lead healthy lives well into adulthood. However, less is known about the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors. What is on the horizon for them?
A recent study about this group of patients tells a little more about their long-term health profile. The Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS) looked at 5,804 early adolescent and young adult survivors of various cancer types to see if there was a difference in mortality causes compared with childhood cancer survivors.1 Both groups are at risk for earlier mortality compared with people their age who did not have cancer. The groups were studied approximately 20 years after their initial diagnosis.
The results showed that both survivor groups are at an increased risk of developing heart, endocrine (hormonal), and muscle and bone conditions, although the AYA group had a lower risk compared with childhood cancer survivors.
Staying Healthy in Body and Mind
What are some ways this large population group can stay healthy? The advice is very much in line with the rest of the population for optimal health:
- Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Get daily exercise.
- Maintain bone strength and cardio health with heart-pumping cardio and weight-baring routines such as weightlifting and yoga.
- Try to keep "scanxiety”—or the fear of the next MRI or scan in check by keeping your mind clear of negative thoughts.
- Get adequate sleep (keeping devices out away from the bedroom can help).
- Enlist the support of a trusted therapist, clergy, or friend to talk to when the worries start to creep into an otherwise positive moment.
This avid bike rider shares some typical meals that keep him energized. He also noted the importance of checking with your doctor about what you typically eat and drink. Green tea, which is fine for most everyone, can interfere with certain medications. Another survivor talked about how running during treatment helped her body and mind stay strong.
If your child has been diagnosed with cancer but hasn’t started treatment yet, please also consider asking about preserving their fertility. Cancer therapies are amazing, but can cause issues down the road, as can radiation and surgery. It might seem too early to discuss this, but it’s a matter of planning for the future, and you are your child’s advocate. The healthcare team can help with age-appropriate ways to discuss procedures such as egg freezing or sperm banking.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Here are a few key questions that should be asked of the teen’s/young adult’s medical team both before and after treatment:
- What are the chances cancer will recur?
- What are the risks for other cancers?
- What fertility issues should be considered when choosing a treatment course?
- What other health issues should we be on the lookout for?
There is a lot to be encouraged by in the current state of cancer care. We hope to empower your family along the journey.
~Lauren Evoy Davis
Suh E1, et al. Late mortality and chronic health conditions in long-term survivors of early-adolescent and young adult cancers: a retrospective cohort analysis from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Lancet Oncol. 2020 Mar;21(3):421-435.
Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.
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