Research finds that pulmonary complications can mount in childhood survivors of cancer for as long as 25 years after initial diagnosis and may have a substantial impact on their daily life.

Researchers analyzed the incidence of pulmonary complications (including oxygen need, lung fibrosis, recurrent pneumonia, emphysema, asthma, and chronic cough) among 14,316 patients who were five-year cancer survivors, and the incidence of death due to pulmonary causes among 20,690 eligible survivors in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. The results were compared to those of 4,027 sibling controls.

Analysis of self-reported patient data suggest that, by the age 45, the incidence of any pulmonary condition was 29.6% for cancer survivors and 26.5% for siblings. Moreover, cancer survivors were more likely to report pulmonary events, such as chronic cough, oxygen need, lung fibrosis, recurrent pneumonia, and difficulties in going about daily activities. Patients who were exposed to platinum and lung radiation due to cancer treatment are at highest risk.

“This study adds to our understanding of specific, long-term risks to pulmonary health for survivors of childhood cancer, and will help refine guidelines for appropriate screening, health surveillance and counseling,” Daniel A. Mulrooney, MD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of the study leaders, said in a news release.

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