Medical Minute 6-21: Childhood Cancer: Effects Last a Lifetime

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Bowling is a new sport for 23-year-old Tanasia Dogan.

A rare sinus cancer in high school left her disfigured and she's just starting to go out in public again.

"I was embarrassed and ashamed and really depressed and I closed myself in and I didn't talk to no one, I didn't leave the house," said Tanasia Dogan.

A visit to the dentist's office revealed her jaw bone had been eaten away. After undergoing intensive chemotherapy, doctors removed the plum sized tumor during a 22-hour surgery. But attempts at reconstructing her jaw have been rejected by her face. She's had 15 surgeries and is ready for another.

"He has to give me new bone and reconstruct my eye socket."

Tanasia is just one of the 350-thousand childhood cancer survivors in the U.S. Two-thirds of them will have another life-threatening illness at some point in their lives.

"Heart problems, lung problems, issues with their kidneys, some of them have fertility issues. Many are at high risk for second cancers," said Dr. Tara Henderson, Medical Director Childhood Cancer Survivor Center at the University of Chicago.

Without proper screening, these survivors are put at risk all over again. Take Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"Women that got chest radiation to cure that Hodgkin's lymphoma have extremely high rates of breast cancer.

But many doctors are unaware. A recent survey of 1500 physicians found less than five-percent of them knew the proper screening for pediatric cancer survivors of Hodgkin's.

"By improving the screening and detecting long-term problems earlier will ultimately reduce the morbidity and mortality of these patients."

As for Tanasia, she's still working on the present.

"It's like I have this thing in my head, like once I was diagnosed with the cancer that Tanasia had left. And now it's a new Tanasia that I have to get to know. I don't know her just yet."

When she does, she'd like to be a motivational speaker for others like her.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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BACKGROUND: Each day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer. One in 330 children will develop cancer by age 20. Cancer remains the number one disease killer of children; more than genetic anomalies, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS combined.

LIFETIME EFFECTS: In the study of nearly every childhood cancer patient who survived at least 5 years after being treated at Children’s Hospital and the Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, 75% developed at least one treatment-related adverse event or condition, and 40% had at least one severe life-threatening or disabling event or condition.

HODGKIN'S LYMPHOMA: A cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. Symptoms include the painless enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen, or other immune tissue. When the disease progresses and involves more lymph nodes or other organs, chemotherapy is the preferred treatment. Chemotherapy uses specific drugs in combination to kill tumor cells. The drugs travel through your bloodstream and can reach nearly all areas of your body. A major concern with chemotherapy is the possibility of long-term side effects and complications, such as heart damage, lung damage, liver damage, fertility problems and secondary cancers, such as leukemia. ( Source: Cancer.gov, MayoClinic.)

PROPER SCREENING: Because of the variety of health risks predisposed by cancer and its therapy, it is particularly important for childhood cancer survivors to receive periodic health surveillance. Evaluations should include a thorough history and physical examination, with attention to skin and soft tissues in radiation treatment fields. The general lack of consensus regarding specific health screening has been problematic for clinicians caring for long-term survivors of childhood cancer, particularly when the majority of young adult survivors are apparently healthy. Communication with treating oncologists and late-effects specialists is helpful in organizing an appropriate treatment-directed follow-up plan. (Medscape.com)

For More Information, Contact:

John Easton
Media Relations
University of Chicago
John.Easton@uchospitals.edu


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