Back in the dark ages of the late 1970's through the early 1980's, there were approximately 10,000 cases of thyroid cancer annually in the US. More cases are in women than men and it did occur in teenagers as well as older adults. It included me in 1981. Its an isolating disease. I felt alone.
Then in 1984 I had a benign breast tumor. Then in May 2007 I had breast cancer. Then in December 2007, I had another benign breast tumor. Now it turns out, there are lots of people out there like me.
Finally there has been a study about people like me - 'Childhood Cancer Survivors At High Risk for Multiple Tumors as They Age'.
The Childhood Cancer Survivor study "was launched in 1994 to identify the challenges facing childhood cancer survivors and to develop new methods to ease or prevent late effects." Raising hand, 'yoo hoo - me too, me too!!!'. The study found that "1,382, or 9.6 percent, of survivors developed new tumors unrelated to their original cancers. About 30 percent of those survivors, 386 individuals, developed third tumors. Four or more tumors were found in 153 survivors in this study."
First they defined childhood cancers as age 20 and under. I was 19. They followed over 14,000 people who had had a childhood cancer, 70 percent had received radiation which has shown to increase the risk of later cancers. I did not have radiation but I did receive radioactive iodine. The study states "Female survivors whose childhood cancer treatment included radiation were among those at highest risk for later tumors, particularly breast tumors."
Additionally, "Risks were also associated with benign tumors. Investigators showed survivors whose second tumor was a non-melanoma skin cancer had a 1 in 5 chance of being diagnosed with another, more aggressive cancer within 15 years. The group included 485 survivors with either basal or squamous cell skin cancers. "These survivors are candidates for additional genetic evaluation to look for an underlying genetic propensity for tumor development or an inability to protect healthy cells against the harmful effects of radiation," Armstrong said."
Even though this focuses on skin cancers I find it interesting they want to have further studies on the high propensity for tumor growth.
I am not a medical person at all - just a patient (and because of my medical (mis)adventures, I can ace all the medical related Jeopardy categories). But I do find some comfort in the fact that there are more of us around. We need to have annual conferences with big parties to talk about life with cancer. Research oncologists could listen to us and learn more.
I am getting ahead of myself here but my point (and I need to have a point) is that more research is needed for this growing population on the results of the long term effects of cancer treatments, radiation in particular. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger... but it may be our undoing in the end.