Protecting the Health of the Next Generation
Cancer is the biggest disease threat to the health of children in Australia, with three kids being diagnosed every day.
For nearly all survivors, harsh treatments can cause life-long health conditions that threaten their survival and quality of life – something that scientists like Associate Professor Rachel Conyers are working hard to change.
Thanks to research, more kids are surviving cancer than ever before, but preserving quality of life can be difficult when kids’ cancer treatments are so often derived from those designed for adults.
We can all improve our health as we get older, but chronic and irreversible health conditions from cancer treatment can unfairly and indiscriminately affect a child’s health, permanently limiting their ability to live well into adulthood and enjoy their senior years.
One common side effect is heart-disease. In fact, childhood cancer survivors are sadly 15 times more likely to have heart failure and 8 times more likely to have heart disease than the general population. A/P Conyers says:
“Heart complications are a leading cause of death for childhood cancer survivors. Recent advances in treating childhood cancer have resulted in survival rates of more than 80 percent. However, improving serious health outcomes in survivors remains an important and essential focus – prevention is key.”
With funding support from The Kids’ Cancer Project, A/P Conyers and her team have developed a world-first set of guidelines to help combat this heart-breaking issue. The guidelines offer a standardised, international approach to preventing deadly heart complications in children undergoing a wide range of cancer treatments.
In practice, they will help children’s cancer doctors to define which childhood cancer patients are at the highest risk of developing cardiac diseases, as well as provide a framework for screening and regular heart check-ups. The guidelines represent a major advance in the field of children’s cancer and will be an indispensable tool for doctors all around the world, helping to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of cancer drugs on children’s hearts – ultimately, saving lives.