September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s an awareness month that is incredibly important for us here at Children with Cancer UK, as it helps us spread awareness of childhood cancer and the need for more childhood cancer research.
This year’s focus for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is the long-term side effects, also known as late effects, that children and young people going through cancer are likely to experience. To find out more about late effects, and how research and treatment in this area have evolved, we had a chat with Professor Rod Skinner.
Professor Rod Skinner was appointed a Consultant in Paediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation in Newcastle in 1995. He’s always been passionate about improving survivorship care, and while he semi-retired recently, he is now working exclusively in long-term follow-up and survivorship. He still leads the long-term follow-up clinical service in Newcastle.
Q: What is meant by the term ‘late effects’?
A: Late effects are chronic side effects of the cancer, or more commonly of the treatments for the cancer, and may lead to important chronic health problems.
Q: Why do late effects occur?
A: Late effects are usually due to the treatment given for the cancer, for example side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Sometimes they may be due to damage caused by the cancer, for example by brain tumours.
Q: How are late effects in childhood cancer survivors monitored and managed?
A: Late effects are monitored by clinical assessment at follow-up clinics, sometimes with monitoring by surveillance tests, for example, blood tests, heart scans (echocardiograms). They are often managed by multidisciplinary team-working with specialist colleagues from different areas, like endocrinologists (hormone specialists).