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Promise and Progress - A Cure is More than the Eradication of Cancer

Faces of Childhood Cancer

A Cure is More than the Eradication of Cancer

Date: June 1, 2004

“Children with cancer become adults who had cancer,” says pediatric oncologist Cindy Schwartz.

While cancer in children seems rare when compared with the number of adults diagnosed with the disease, as many as one out of every 500 American young adults is a survivor of childhood cancer. Modern cancer treatments, with all of their refinements, still expose patients to highly toxic therapies. Some patients with curable cancers may face greater physical and psychological risks from long-term effects of their cancer therapy than from the cancer itself. 

For Schwartz, one of the greatest challenges lies in ensuring survival after curative therapies. For more than a decade, she has studied the long-term physical and developmental changes in children who have received radiation therapy, chemotherapy and a variety of combination therapies.

“As these children become adults,” says Schwartz, “the cancer diagnosis may recede into the past, but the long-term effects on health and perceived health continue into the future. We speak of curing cancer, but cure is the restoration of health. While cancer can be eradicated, survivors must be restored to health that lasts decades. Five-year survival is only the beginning, not the end point, of successful treatment.”

Schwartz has established the Pediatric and Young Adult Survivors of Cancer Treatment Program to assess and monitor pediatric cancer patients as they move into adulthood. She and clinic coordinator Kathy Ruble work with patients from childhood through age 45 to learn how cancer treatments affect children from diagnosis through adulthood so that researchers and clinicians can develop therapies that work for the patient, both during and after cancer treatment.-—with Wendy Mullins

Survivors of pediatric cancers, age 45 or younger, may contact Kathy Ruble, R.N., P.N.P., at 410-955-7385 or 410-955-5062 for more information on the Pediatric and Young Adult Survivors of Cancer Treatment Program.