Posts Tagged ‘ childhood cancer ’

Cancer Risk from Early Childhood X-Rays Negligible, Study Finds

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Most children who get multiple X-ray and CT scans because of heart disease don’t face a significantly higher risk of developing cancer later in childhood because of the scans’ radiation, according to new research conducted by Duke University cardiologists.  Some kids–especially girls–do face a higher risk of cancer than others, so doctors are urged to take steps to reduce the radiation exposure from the scans.  More from NBC News:

It’s an issue because children are three to four times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to ionizing radiation like that given in an X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan. “Radiation exposure in childhood is of particular concern because children have immature developing organ and tissue structures,” Hill’s team wrote in their report, published in the journal Circulation.

These kids got an awful lot of imaging — 13,932 X-rays, CT scans and other procedures before, during and after surgery. The X-rays didn’t deliver much radiation at all, Hill’s team found.

The big culprits are cardiac catheterization exams and CT scans. They can deliver up to 1,800 times more radiation than a standard X-ray. Children who got many of these complicated and time-consuming scans did get enough radiation to triple their risk of cancer, Hill found.

On average, children don’t have a high risk of cancer, though, so even doubling or tripling that very low risk still doesn’t make them very likely to develop cancer.

“Even though their risk is threefold greater, it is not necessarily a high risk,” Hill said. “I think it is important for parents to understand that there is a small amount of risk.”

Doctors can and should do their best to minimize radiation exposure, Hill said. New technology can help with this, as can techniques that make it necessary to use the shortest possible burst of radiation.

Image: Chest X-ray, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Childhood Cancer Survivors May Face Later Heart Risks

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Children who undergo treatment for cancer may be at greater risk of developing heart disease later in childhood, as well as in adulthood, according to a new study presented to the American Heart Association.  Researchers recommended that pediatricians monitor heart health carefully in their patients who have undergone cancer treatments.  More from The New York Times:

Scientists have known for some time that survivors of childhood cancer are several times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults, a result of the toll that lifesaving radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have on the heart. But the new study, presented at an American Heart Association conference over the weekend, is among the first to show that the risk is elevated while the survivors are still children.

The research looked at 319 boys and girls under the age of 18 who underwent chemotherapy treatments for leukemia or cancerous tumors. At the time of the study, the participants were a minimum of five years past the time of their diagnosis.

When the children were compared with 208 siblings of similar ages, the researchers found a nearly 10 percent decrease in arterial health and other signs of premature heart disease.

Image: Baby undergoing treatment, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Shutdown Blocking Kids’ Cancer Clinical Trial Treatments

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Each week of the government shutdown, around 30 children will be prevented from receiving treatment for cancer and other illnesses through clinical trials, the National Institutes of Health announced this week.  More from ABC News:

John Burklow, a spokesman for the National Institutes of Health, estimated that 200 patients would experience these delays each week of the shutdown. Since 15 percent of these patients are typically children, and 33 percent of these children have cancer, that means the patients facing delays would include about 30 children per week, 10 of whom have cancer, he said.

Federal health programs are down thousands of employees, which hampers clinical trials and disease outbreak surveillance.

The NIH, for example, has had to furlough 14,700 employees – or 75 percent of its staff – as a result of the shutdown, Burklow told ABCNews.com. He expressed surprise  that calls were even getting through,  because he said his phone system had gone down this morning.

“Unfortunately, almost everybody is gone,” he said of his office. His staff in the media office has shrunk from 38 to one.

More than 1,400 ongoing clinical trials will continue at the NIH Clinical Center, which is the largest research hospital in the world, but it won’t be able to enroll any new patients in these trials or start any new trials during the shutdown, Burklow said.

“There are four new protocols [clinical trials] ready to start next week, and they won’t be starting during the shutdown if we’re still shut down,” he said.

As a result of the shutdown, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has furloughed 9,000 employees, rendering it unable to track multi-state disease outbreaks, said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds. These currently include the disease stemming from the brain-eating amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which killed a 4-year-old in Louisiana a few weeks ago, and the stomach bug cyclospora, which has sickened 643 people in 25 states since June.

“The vast majority of the CDC is actively in the process of shutting down,” she said. “We’ve gotten really good at trying to find outbreaks, but our strong network is getting weaker. … This is spotty.”

The seasonal flu program will also be shut down, which could affect the CDC’s ability to warn populations most at risk for becoming sick and its ability to create next year’s flu shot, Reynolds said.

Add a Comment

Optimism Growing in Childhood Cancer Outcomes

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Cancer remains the number one cause of childhood death, but there is reason for optimism in the face of new treatments and better diagnostic tools, a new statistical analysis has found.  More from ABC News:

National Cancer Institute statistics show that in the U.S. the combined, an overall five-year cancer survival rate for children under 19 with cancer has increased from 62 percent in the mid-1970s to 84 percent today. For the most common type of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the cure rate is now over 90 percent.

“We’ve made amazing progress on pediatric cancers in just one generation. It’s the biggest success story in cancer right now,” said James Downing, M.D., co-chair of the American Association for Cancer Research’s special conference on pediatric cancer; and scientific director at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Downing said one of the reasons such great strides have been made in pediatric cancer is that treatment protocols for younger patients tend to be vastly different from adult protocols. With adult cancer, there is a tendency to take breaks in treatment and back off if it gets too intense, he said. But many pediatric oncologists are aggressive about having their patients push through treatment until there is a cure — sometimes for up to three years without a break.

Another reason for the high success rate is that up to 60 percent of pediatric cancer patients are treated as part of a research trial, compared to just 5 percent of adults, Downing said. Such trials offer access to cutting-edge treatments and a chance for oncologist to confer with a team of oncologists, other specialists and researchers.

But Downing said he thinks the biggest advances in treatment have come from the sequencing of the human genome.

“DNA sequencing of tumors helps us define the mutations that underlie pediatric cancer to help us attack cancers where we are not yet winning and will be a major catalyst to make progress in the next several years in how to treat those cancers,” he said.

Downing admitted there are some unique challenges when treating young ones stricken with cancer.

Most cancer drugs were developed for use with older, more mature bodies so proper dosages and side effects can be tricky, he said. The cancers seen in children are vastly different from the ones seen in adults, so they aren’t always as completely studied or well understood. And it’s also difficult to know whether the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery children receive might lead to health problems later in life.

“Our challenge is to cure them so they can reduce long-term complications and live a normal life,” he said.

Image: Child undergoing chemotherapy, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Fertility Concerns Becoming Less Common Among Childhood Cancer Survivors

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A new body of research is revealing how survivors of childhood cancer may struggle less with infertility than they may have expected.  Earlier assessment of fertility hormones is key to success, researchers say, because radiation and chemotherapy often ages the reproductive organs, including the ovaries, more quickly than normal aging would.  But fertility is within reach for many who have been through cancer treatment as children. The New York Times has more:

Last month, a large study in The Lancet Oncology found that about two thirds of female survivors who sought out fertility treatments as adults ultimately became pregnant — a rate of success that mirrored the rate among other infertile women. Other recent studies have found that many men who experience low sperm counts after pediatric cancer, a side effect in two thirds of boys who receive chemotherapy, can undergo procedures that harvest viable sperm, allowing them to father their own children. Doctors say that while there is no doubt that childhood cancer increases the likelihood of infertility, the ovaries and testes of young cancer patients may be more resilient than they had previously thought.

“When we see cancer survivors as adults, depending on how late they are in their reproductive years, radiation and chemotherapy tends to have a pretty suppressive effect on their future fertility,” said Dr. Hal C. Danzer, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Southern California Reproductive Center. “But this speaks to the fact that the ovaries and sperm production are more resilient in young individuals. It’s very encouraging.”

But if fertility treatment is to be successful, time is of the essence. Normally, for example, women under 35 are encouraged to attempt getting pregnant for at least a year before seeing a fertility specialist. For those with a history of cancer, however, the new message should be, “Don’t wait,” said Dr. Lisa R. Diller, the chief medical officer of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

“The ovaries after childhood cancer have taken a hit, and they are almost aging more quickly than someone of the same chronological age without cancer,” said Dr. Diller, the lead author of the Lancet study. “In the setting of having had childhood cancer, if a woman is 25 and has been trying to conceive for six months, then I would say see a specialist.”

Typically, childhood survivors tend not to address fertility issues until they are in a relationship and their treatment is many years behind them, said Dr. Aarati D. Didwania, the director of the STAR survivorship program at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University.

“A lot of young women will come in and say, ‘I’m married, we’ve been trying for six months, is this related to my treatment?’ ” she said.

Traditionally, the fertility discussion has involved finding out which cancer therapies patients received and what their hormonal status is like, so doctors can estimate their likelihood of being infertile. Then they can talk about their options, Dr. Didwania said, and whether they need to resort to things like surrogacy, using donor eggs and sperm, or adoption.

But the new goal in the field of cancer fertility, or oncofertility, is to be as proactive as possible, said Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, chief of the division of fertility preservation at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Oncologists are increasingly making a point of bringing up the subject of fertility at the time of diagnosis, discussing options like freezing eggs, sperm and embryos before treatment. In younger patients who have not gone through puberty, some fertility clinics offer the option of freezing ovarian and testicular tissue, which can be reimplanted when patients get older.

Studies show that up to two thirds of young patients are now counseled about fertility before starting their cancer treatment.

“Today 80 percent of kids will survive,” Dr. Woodruff said. “Now that patients are thriving and have decades of life ahead of them, fertility is a high priority for them.”

Image: Pregnant couple, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment