April 2, 2009

Child cancer survivors have school trouble

Children who survived cancer had an elevated risk of poor educational achievement and learning difficulties, Canadian researchers said.

These are very significant findings, Barbara Kaminsky, chief executive officer of the Canadian Cancer Society of British Columbia and Yukon, said in a statement. It is not good enough to just improve survival rates for these children. We need to ensure that as many childhood cancer patients as possible become more than survivors -- rather we hope to have post-cancer thrivers.

Many childhood cancer survivors suffer what are known as adverse late effects -- problems that may be related to the disease or to the aggressive treatments patients have been through, Kaminsky said.

The study looked at almost 800 cancer survivors who had a primary diagnosis of cancer at age 15 or younger and who had survived for more than five years after diagnosis.

The study, published in the journal Cancer, found that the cancer survivors achieved lower levels of education and increased utilization of special education services, and were more likely to repeat a grade level.