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Excellent quality of life after childhood leukemia in Switzerland

Young adults, who had been treated for leukaemia in childhood, report a similar quality of life as the general population. This was the case even if they had suffered a relapse and needed intensified treatments. Insights from the nationwide Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children. While the majority of children can be cured, about 20% have a relapse. These kids need intensified treatments, including chemotherapy, brain irradiation or stem cell transplantation. The disease and its treatment put ALL survivors at risk for later health problems, such as cardiac disease or learning difficulties. This is particularly true for survivors of relapsed ALL.

Little is known about subsequent quality of life in survivors who have undergone such intensified treatments.

In a nationwide cohort study in Switzerland, we investigated quality of life in all survivors of childhood ALL and compared them to the general population. We had a particular focus on patients who had suffered a relapse.

Data came from the Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a follow-up study of all childhood cancer patients registered in the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry. In a questionnaire, the survivors rated their quality of life with the widely used “Short Form-36”, which measures four aspects of physical health and four aspects of mental health.

The 457 survivors in this study had similar quality of life compared to the general population, irrespective of relapse status. Compared to non-relapsed ALL survivors, relapsed ALL survivors reported slightly lower quality of life in one of eight aspects (“general health”).

In conclusion, we found that survivors generally report an excellent quality of life. In those, who have a relapse, further improvements of therapy should also aim to minimize late effects and optimize quality of life.

 

Link to the article: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038015

Link to the childhood cancer registry: http://www.childhoodcancerregistry.ch

 

Photo credit:

CC BY-SA Frédéric de Villamil http://www.flickr.com/photos/fdevillamil/3564278538/

© ISPM - University of Bern 2019