These words can seem like a bad dream for any parent. Unfortunately, cancer is a common reality for many parents, affecting 1 in 300 children and adolescents every year. Over the past 25 years, the number of patients diagnosed with childhood cancer has risen by 5%. Although more children today have cancer, the good news is that even more children are surviving their cancer. The advancements in medical care have led to an improved survival rate for all types of childhood cancers.
With an increase in the number of children with cancer–and the fact that these children are living longer–there is a growing and unique population of childhood cancer survivors. These survivors are at risk for both recurrent cancer and long-term health problems. At Cincinnati Children’s, our radiology department does many imaging studies for these patients as part of their treatment and follow-up care.
Because survivors of childhood cancer have been reported to be nearly 9 times more likely to die as a result of a lung complication like a recurrent cancerous mass, our radiologists wanted to better understand how imaging could help identify risk factors and more accurately diagnosis these lung conditions. Recently our radiologists, using our hospital cancer registry, looked at the imaging from almost 900 childhood cancer survivors and found that 1 in 6 had a finding in their chest. The most common chest imaging findings were small lung masses, and nearly 1/3 of these masses were found to be cancerous. The findings in this research highlight the importance of follow-up imaging for childhood cancer survivors.
We know that pediatric cancer survivors will need expert long-term medical care. Radiology research like this helps doctors, patients and families to know more about how to improve that care and increase the survival rates for children diagnosed with cancer.
Contributions by Tracey Mehlman, MD and Alex Towbin, MD, and edited by Catherine Leopard.