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Support for childhood cancer survivors

>> Saturday, September 26, 2009

A ONE-STOP clinic to address long-term health issues faced by childhood cancer survivors may be available at the National University Hospital (NUH) next year. This development is spurred by a recent local study, which found that young cancer survivors were at higher risk of developing side effects later in life from the treatment.

But patients were not always informed of the potential health risks and supported with the right follow-up care.

Eighty to 90 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer can be cured, but the high doses of chemotherapy and radiation greatly increase their risk of developing complications later on.

Dr Aung Lele, lead researcher of the Singapore Childhood Cancer Survivor Study - a collaborative effort by NUH and KK Women's and Children's Hospital - said: "Let's say they have a tumour in the pelvis, and they get radiation to the pelvic area. Their reproductive organs are going to be hurt, the infertility risk is much higher."

In the survey of 80 children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer between 1981 and 2005, fewer than 10 per cent were told they may have trouble having children, for instance.

Together with the other researchers, Dr Aung is looking at setting up a one-stop clinic for childhood cancer survivors.

"(They) can have hormonal problems. So, the young girls may have pre-mature menopause. In the past, the oncologist might not be aware of it or know how to take care of that. So he might just either refer it to a generalist or endocrinologist ... And the doctors do not talk to each other."

The clinic thus will bring together all the various sub-specialists, for a more holistic approach to long-term care.




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