[back] Cancers from Chemo and radiation
Liz Szabo, "Cancer survivors face other battles", USA Today, August
A new study finds that cancer casts a long shadow on the lives of
survivors, harming their ability to work and perform daily chores more
than a decade after diagnosis.
Compared with people without the disease, cancer survivors feel
sicker, miss work more often, are more likely to be disabled and
bedridden and are less likely to be employed, according to a study in
today's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In a survey of more than 1,800 cancer survivors and nearly 5,500
people never diagnosed with the disease, 31% of survivors described
their health as fair or poor, compared with 18% of other people.
Cancer survivors more often suffered from a litany of ills, including
arthritis, back or neck problems, fractures, high blood pressure and
The study's lead author, Robin Yabroff of the National Cancer
Institute (NCI), says she was surprised that problems lingered so
long, even when cancer survivors were compared with people of the same
age, sex and educational level. The study was based the 2000 National
Health Interview Survey, conducted annually by the National Center for
Yabroff says the survey does not reveal whether survivors' problems
stemmed from disabilities caused by the initial cancer, returning
tumors or the toxic side effects of treatment.
Despite the problems, cancer survivors were no more likely to be
depressed or to suffer from strokes, heart problems, diabetes or
David Johnson, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology,
was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma about 15 years ago. He says
he still suffers from pain in his joints and neck and has developed
hypertension and breathing problems.
Earlier research has shown that survivors often struggle with a
variety of serious problems, many stemming from treatment.
Chemotherapy can damage the heart, hormone treatments can cause
impotence, and radiation sometimes leads to secondary cancers. Women
who undergo radical mastectomies often suffer from a painful swelling
of the arms for which there is no effective treatment.
Johnson acknowledges that today's article paints a somewhat bleak
picture of survivors. But, he notes, "you have to be alive to have
In fact, about 64% of cancer patients now survive at least five years,
according to the NCI.
And half of people with cancer live as long as those without the
disease, says Harmon Eyre, chief medical officer of the American
Cancer Society, which is preparing its own study of 25,000 cancer
Today's article is the latest in a series of reports published in the
past six months that focuses on the needs of the nation's nearly 10
million cancer survivors, a growing field of research. The article
underscores the need to find cancer earlier, Eyre says. In many cases,
early-stage disease is more easily cured and causes less long-term
"Our goal is to have these people have the highest quality of life
available," Eyre says. "And to do that, we need to learn about them."