ACCORDING to the American Cancer Society, there’s some good news about childhood cancer: The vast majority of children with cancer will survive for many years. While cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15, more kids are living, more families remain whole, and more days once filled with grief are spent celebrating life.
The advancements in childhood cancer treatments are astounding. That said, there are challenges that become more pressing every day as a result of this positive trend. Treating cancer isn’t easy on the doctors, researchers and, especially, the patients. With cancer, the goal is survival and the methods are often harsh and come with long-term effects.
For many children, survival is only half the battle. Certain health problems called late effects often arise, including heart, lung and kidney issues. Often, health care providers for adults who have survived childhood cancer are in the dark as to what treatments were used and what the effects may have been. This makes selecting the proper protocols for adulthood health care very difficult.
Drs. Lillian Meacham and Ann Mertens at the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta understand these effects better than most and have dedicated their careers to helping young people survive the cure as well as the cancer itself. They also created SurvivorLink. Endowed in part by Aflac, it is the only statewide Web-based data source for childhood cancer survivors.
Until recently, many childhood cancer survivors were unaware of the effect their treatments could have on their long-term health. The site provides a cache of information for doctors and nurses who treat cancer survivors. These medical professionals can access health records online and understand the diagnosis and treatments that were used to fight the cancer and better approach future health care decisions armed with knowledge that in the past was either forgotten or not recorded in an accessible format. Researchers also use the source to study the long-term effect of chemotherapy and radiation on children and develop new protocols.
David R. Freyer, director of the LIFE Cancer Survivorship and Transition Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Member of the Survivorship and Outcomes Steering Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group, agrees that SurvivorLink helps researchers and providers who treat patients after the cancer is cured.
“Many young patients are unaware of the details around their cancer treatments,” Dr. Freyer says. “SurvivorLink at the Aflac Cancer Center helps gather and coordinate treatment information that can be used to make decisions that benefit childhood cancer survivors throughout their lives.”
To find out more about SurvivorLink, go to www.cancersurvivorlink.org. To find out more about Aflac’s $80 million commitment to children’s cancer treatment and research, go to www.Aflac.com. North American Precis Syndicate