A new study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that child cancer survivors are more prone to blood disorders and other problems and require more hospitalizations compared to others, even years after successfully completing their cancer treatments. 

"Our findings demonstrate that childhood cancer survivors face ongoing problems that can lead to hospitalization, even for those who are decades past their original cancer diagnosis. This can negatively impact their quality of life," said Dr. Anne C. Kirchhoff, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Huntsman Cancer Institute of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, in a press release. She went on to explain how regular cancer-focused health care is important in order to later identify health problems survivors may experience long-term. "Patients and families who have experienced childhood cancer should obtain a cancer treatment summary and recommendations for follow-up care from their oncologist, and coordinate their follow-up care with their oncology and primary care doctors to ensure their health care needs are being managed."

The researchers concluded that cancer survivors were 52 percent more prone to being hospitalized for various conditions. The number of admissions was 67 percent higher compared to individuals of the same sex and age who did not have cancer. The duration of survivors’ stay was also more by about 35 percent compared to others. In such cases, the Affordable Care Act provides the medical aid the patients need, according to the study. It has several provisions that will improve insurance for cancer survivors, such as expanding coverage to dependents up to age 26, prohibiting insurance denials based on health status, and eliminating lifetime limits on coverage. 

The analysis for this study was based on 1,499 childhood cancer survivors treated between 1975 and 2005. These patients, whose records were taken from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) and the Utah Cancer Registry were at least five years past their original cancer diagnosis. Researchers analyzed facts like demographics, type of cancer, and type of treatment. They also collected information on subsequent hospitalizations from the Utah Department of Health hospital discharge records. These were compared to 7,713 non-cancer patients who served as age and sex-matched controls.

Fifty percent of the survivors in the study included women, and 98 percent were non-Hispanic white. Comparisons showed that irrespective of sex, survivors were more likely to have been hospitalized more than their respective controls. Female survivors also had a longer average length of hospital stay than female controls. Hospitalization was for conditions like anemia or other blood-disorders and cancer, which may or may not have been a relapse, general infections, nervous system problems, and respiratory problems.

Survivors of specific cancers such as those of the central nervous system tumors, neuroblastoma, or malignant bone tumors were hospitalized five or more times during the follow-up period and survivors of neuroblastoma and bone tumors were two times more likely to be hospitalized compared to controls.

"We saw higher rates of hospitalization across most cancer types, but not for all cancers, which gives us clues as to which groups of survivors may need better surveillance in the long term," Kirchhoff said.

Several recommendations have been made for long-term care of childhood cancer survivors. These include yearly thyroid and lung examinations, regular mammograms, blood tests, imaging tests, and electrocardiograms.