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Kids with cancer: Part V: Survivors continue to deal with side effects from treatment

— Though she remembers the exact date of her diagnosis, Hannagan said she doesn’t recall exactly when she found out she was in remission, though she knows it was on a weekend.

“Dr. [Irene] Cherrick [another oncologist at Upstate] called and told my mom that my scans are all normal,” Hannagan said. “I was already done with treatment at that point, so I guess as a 16-year-old, that was the most important thing.”

Lingering effects

Though her treatments ended some two decades ago, Hannagan still has some lingering effects from her disease.

“As a result of treatment, I have to take medications every day,” she said. “I take medicine for hypothyroidism and hormone replacement. I am seen every year at Upstate’s Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders.”

And that’s not uncommon. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 found that nearly three quarters of all pediatric cancer survivors will have a chronic health problem within 30 years of their diagnosis, with 40 percent suffering from a serious, life-threatening, disabling or fatal condition. The findings were based on interviews with survivors, questionnaires filled out by those survivors, and analysis of their cancer treatments. The outcomes of the adult survivors were compared to their siblings. Compared to their siblings, adult survivors of childhood cancer were eight times as likely to have severe, life-threatening, or disabling chronic health conditions such as heart attacks, second cancers, and serious problems with cognition (e.g., learning and memory), according to the report.

In Syracuse, after a child has completed treatment, he or she transitions to the Survivor Wellness Center at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, where they will be seen regularly to be screened for any side effects from treatment or other ill effects that may linger for years after the cancer has been declared in remission.

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