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Adult Childhood Cancer Survivors- Cognitive Decline

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Adult childhood cancer survivors are adults who had cancer as an infant or as a child. According to the studies linked and excerpted below, cognitive decline can be a late stage side effect- meaning that cognitive decline can occur years after the cancer patient completes his/her therapy.

According to research, there are more than 500,000 adult childhood cancer survivors alive today.

This means that there are approximately 500,000 adult childhood cancer survivors alive today with a greater than average risk of cognitive decline in addition to the many other health risks that they face.

I am both a parent as well as a long-term cancer survivor myself. The first question that I have to answer is, if my son was diagnosed with a pediatric cancer (when he was a child), knowing what I know, would I want him to undergo aggressive conventional therapies to save his life knowing his long-term health risks?

I have to be honest and say that the answer to this question is yes.

However, the difference in my thinking is found in the study below highlighted in maroon. The issue is that conventional medicine simply encurages cancer survivors to get regular check-ups in hopes of identifying a health problem as early as possible. In short, their solution to this problem is to encourage “observation.”

I disagree.

It is well-established that chemotherapy and radiation cause:

  • Inflammation (read more 1 ) 
  • premature aging, senescence (read more 2) 
  • DNA damage, (read more 3)
  • Treatment-induced secondary cancer (read more 4)
  • Treatment-induced risk of relapse (read more 5) 

I believe that it is this “silent” damage that is responsible for the vast majority of long-term and late stage side effects experienced by all cancer survivors. I myself struggle with many long-term and late stage side effects.

I believe that evidence-based but non-conventional therapies such as

  • anti-angiogenic nutrition
  • anti-angiogenic, anti-inflammatory nutritional supplementation
  • lifestyle therapies such as moderate exercise and sauna

all can reduce the risk of and may even prevent these long-term and late stage side effects.


My chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction aka chemo brain had compelled me to study my risk of and therapies to combat dementia, cognitive decline, mind-body connection and brain health in general. 

Are you an adult childhood cancer survivor? How old were you when you were first diagnosed? What type of cancer did you have? What therapies did you undergo? Have you had to manage any short, long-term or late stage side effects?

Scroll down the page and post a question or a comment.

Hang in there and good luck.

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
  2. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/158452
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3672181/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435077/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31454672/

Late-onset Cognitive Impairment and Modifiable Risk Factors in Adult Childhood Cancer Survivors

Key Points

Question  Are adult survivors of childhood cancer at risk for new-onset neurocognitive impairments that outpace those associated with typical aging?

Findings  In this cohort study of 2375 adult survivors of childhood cancer and their sibling controls, new-onset memory impairment emerged more often in survivors decades after cancer diagnosis and treatment. The increased risk was associated with cancer treatment, modifiable health behaviors, and chronic health conditions.

Meaning  These findings suggest that adult survivors of childhood cancer are at elevated risk for new-onset neurocognitive impairments as they age and that such new-onset impairment may be an indicator of future neurocognitive decline and possibly dementia.

Adult Childhood Cancer including:

  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL; 1316 participants),
  • central nervous system (CNS) tumors (488 participants), and
  • Hodgkin lymphoma (HL; 571 participants)

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings suggest that adult childhood cancer survivors are at elevated risk for late-onset memory impairment related to modifiable risk factors identified early in survivorship…

Cancer-related therapies can cause biological changes that lead to:

  • cerebrovascular damage,
  • stem cell depletion or mutation, and
  • oxidative stress and inflammation.31

Ionizing radiation causes

  • cellular senescence,
  • epigenetic alterations, and
  • DNA disrepair.32

Methotrexate causes epigenetic alteration and inhibits free radical reduction.33,34 It may be through these mechanisms that adult childhood cancer survivors are at increased risk for reduced neurocognitive reserve, which would offer less resilience against accumulated life stressors and accelerate age-related decline.35…

Thus, we can anticipate that without improvements in early interventions, the number of survivors developing neurocognitive impairments will increase as the survivor population expands and ages…

Cognitive Decline Risk in Adult Childhood Cancer Survivors

Adult survivors of childhood cancer have an elevated risk of developing cognitive impairment years after their cancer diagnosis and treatment, new research shows…

The increased risk was associated with the cancer treatment that was provided as well as modifiable health behaviors and chronic health conditions.

Even 35 years after being diagnosed, cancer survivors who never received chemotherapies or radiation therapies known to damage the brain reported far greater memory impairment than their siblings…

What the findings suggest is that “we need to educate oncologist and primary care providers on the risks our survivors face long after completion of therapy…”

However, “our study suggests that all survivors, regardless of their therapy, should be screened regularly for new-onset neurocognitive problems. And this screening should be done regularly for decades after diagnosis,” he told Medscape Medical News

 

 

 

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