Leading cancer doctors have suggested in a major medical journal that GPs should pay greater heed to the long-term side-effects of chemotherapy in teenagers and young adults.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the article in question indicates that younger cancer survivors can experience serious side-effects for many decades after initial treatment.
These can include infertility problems, heart failure and depression.
Although cancer typically involves older people, there are in fact in excess of 2,000 new cases of cancer annually in those aged between 15 and 24.
This figure has risen by nearly 20% since the mid-90s.
The office of the article all emanated from Cambridge University, and examine a series of studies and trials, with the aim of understanding the wider range of effects which chemotherapy therapy drugs can conceivably produce.
Physical influences of such medicines had a different impact on those in adolescence or early adulthood, compared to young children and adults who had also undergone chemotherapy treatment.
At present this is apparent disparity is not understood, yet serious effects were noted, which included memory loss, fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, deafness, coronary artery disease, hypertension, infertility and osteoporosis.
Dr Saif Ahmad, academic special registrar in clinical oncology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, said it was important for GPs to provide young people with valid advice in order to prevent such side-effects from occurring.
And Ahmad went on to point out that infertility can be one of the most important areas for younger chemotherapy patients, with heart difficulties also be particularly debilitating, but can be prevented with swift diagnosis.
“If you’re a teenager or young adult who has had cancer treatment, you have 20% less chance of becoming pregnant compared to others who haven’t had chemotherapy – and some patients will become infertile. If heart failure can be picked up early and the right drugs used, then side-effects can be reversed”.
The article went on to suggest that GPs should actively ask about psychosocial issues such as coping with work and the fear of the disease returning.
Another possible course of action is to identify support groups, enabling younger people to talk about issues worrying them, and hopefully having a positive psychological effect.
The authors of the report suggested communicating about the after-effects of cancer should be considered particularly important, and also a two-way process.
“If you don’t talk about these issues, then they won’t talk to you about them,” the aforementioned Ahmad commented.