Childhood Cancer Therapies Tied to Gastrointestinal Issues

WEDNESDAY May 25, 2011 -- Children who are successfully treated for cancer are at greater risk of developing mild to severe gastrointestinal problems down the road, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco analyzed the self-reported gastrointestinal (GI) problems of 14,358 patients who survived at least five years following treatment for cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumors or bone tumors.

More than 40 percent experienced some type of GI problem -- including ulcers, esophageal disease, indigestion, polyps, chronic diarrhea, colitis, gallstones and jaundice -- within two decades of their treatment, the investigators found.

Moreover, people diagnosed with cancer at an older age and who had to undergo more rigorous therapy (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) were more likely to experience long-term GI issues, according to the study in the May issue of Gastroenterology.

About one in 500 young adults in the United States is a survivor of childhood cancer, the study authors noted in a UCSF news release.

"While physicians continue to learn about the long-term consequences of pediatric cancer and its therapy, it is essential that we provide comprehensive follow-up care that appropriately addresses the complications cancer survivors may experience," lead study author Dr. Robert Goldsby, pediatric cancer specialist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and director of the UCSF Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program, said in the news release.

"These are serious issues that can have a real impact on a person's quality of life," Goldsby added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on childhood cancers.

Posted: May 2011


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