Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review Regular review

Developing strategies for long term follow up of survivors of childhood cancer

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 04 August 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:271
  1. W Hamish B Wallace (, consultant paediatric oncologistaa,
  2. Annie Blacklay, staff grade paediatric oncologyb,
  3. Christine Eiser, professor of psychologyc,
  4. Helena Davies, consultant in paediatrics and medical educationd,
  5. Mike Hawkins, reader in epidemiologye,
  6. Gill A Levitt, consultant paediatric oncologistf,
  7. Meriel E M Jenney the Late Effects Committee of the United Kingdom Children's Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG)., consultant paediatric oncologistg
  1. a Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh EH9 1LF
  2. b Diana, Princess of Wales Children's Hospital, Birmingham B4 6NH
  3. c University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TP
  4. d Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield S10 2TH
  5. e Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT
  6. f Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London WC1N 3JH
  7. g Llandough Hospital, Penarth, South Glamorgan CF64 2XX
  1. Correspondence to: W H B Wallace

    The treatment of childhood cancer has been increasingly successful over the past 30 years. Most paediatric cancers are now curable with multiagent chemotherapy in combination with surgery and radiotherapy. The overall survival five years after diagnosis is now 70% for all paediatric malignancies. The incidence is low (1200-1300 children affected each year in Britain), but with the sustained improvement in survival the number of long term survivors is increasing—about 850 additional survivors of childhood cancer each year. With this improved survival, it is important to increase our knowledge of any long term costs in the form of physical and psychosocial adverse health outcomes.

    This review looks at the evidence relating to long term clinical follow up after childhood cancer and considers ways to develop such follow up for the future. An awareness of the possible long term complications is important not only for optimising health care for the current survivors but also for modifying future treatment protocols to avoid therapies that are associated with unacceptable morbidity or mortality.

    We have summarised the evidence on selected long term complications; this evidence is inevitably based on retrospective studies. In the final section we discuss the development of a strategy for the clinical follow up of long term survivors.

    Summary points

    Long term follow up strategies are needed because of increasing numbers of survivors of childhood cancers

    Models for follow up need to be developed and formally evaluated

    Increasing numbers of survivors may have medical problems that will require ongoing specialist follow up

    The role, training programmes, and career structure of the late effects nurse practitioner needs to be developed

    The primary care physician may have an important role in long term follow up

    There is a need for prospective evaluation of new treatments and randomised studies of clinical interventions to resolve substantial uncertainties for …

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