Decreased Health-Related Quality of Life Seen in Pediatric Cancer Survivors

Survivors of pediatric cancer observed to have similar health-related quality of life as older adults.

A recent study found that young adult survivors of childhood cancer have the health-related quality of life of middle-aged adults.

Childhood cancer survivors have higher risks of heart disease, infertility, lung disease, cancers, and other chronic conditions to prior chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, according to researchers.

The study, published by Journal of the National Cancer Institute, examined health indicators in 7105 survivors of pediatric cancer aged 18 to 49-years-old who were included in the national Childhood Cancer Survivor Survey (CCSS).

Researchers found that only 20% of these patients had no chronic conditions.

Researchers also used data from 12,803 individuals who responded to the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) to evaluate health-related quality of life among the general population to compare with their findings.

"This research provides an easily accessible way to compare adult survivors of childhood cancer to the general population, in terms of their health-related quality of life, which normally declines as people age," said study senior author Lisa Diller, MD. "Our findings indicate survivors' accelerated aging and also help us understand the health-related risks associated with having had cancer as a child. What's encouraging is that the lower quality of life scores are associated with chronic disease after treatment, not with a history of pediatric cancer itself. If we can prevent treatment-related conditions by changes in the therapy we use for the cancer, then childhood cancer will become an acute, rather than a chronic, illness."

Health data was gathered from adult CCSS respondents aged 18 to 49 and each patient was assigned a health-related quality of life score where 0 was death and 1 was perfect health.

Researchers also used data from CCSS about 372 siblings of childhood cancer survivors. Sibling scores matched the MEPS results.

Researchers found that childhood cancer survivors with no chronic health conditions had similar scores to the general population.

Childhood cancer survivors with chronic health conditions matched the scores of chronically ill members of the general population, according to the study.

On the 0 to 1 scale, childhood cancer survivor patients aged 18-29 had an average score of .78, while the 40-49 age group scored similarly.

Childhood cancer survivors with no chronic conditions had an average score of .81 and patients with 2 chronic conditions scored an average of .77.

Survivors with 3 or more disabling, server, or life-threatening conditions scored an average of .70.

"By enabling comparisons to the general population, our findings provide context to better understand how the cancer experience may influence the long-term well-being of survivors," concluded lead author Jennifer Yeh, PhD. "This is another way to understand the health challenges survivors face and where to focus efforts to improve the long-term health and quality of life of survivors."