24% of childhood cancer survivors still experience neuromuscular dysfunction 20 years later, study finds

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Nearly a quarter of childhood cancer survivors experience at least one debilitating neuromuscular condition 20 years post diagnosis, according to a study published in the June issue of Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 

To conduct the study, researchers at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn., analyzed longitudinal surveys from nearly 26,000 childhood cancer survivors and 5,044 of their siblings. 

Five years post-diagnosis, nearly 15 percent of childhood cancer survivors were experiencing neuromuscular dysfunction, compared to 1.5 percent of the siblings cohort. Overall, survivors of central nervous system tumors and sacromas reported the highest prevalence of neuromuscular dysfunction. 

At 20 years post-diagnosis, 24.3 percent of survivors were experiencing at least one condition that affected strength, sensation or balance. 

Imparired sensation was the common condition experienced by long-term survivors 20 years after diagnosis, followed by imparied balance, extremity weakness and tremors. 

Additionally, researchers found survivors experiencing these conditions were more vulnerable to emotional distress and unemployment. 

"We hope these findings will result in increased screening and surveillance for neuromuscular dysfunction in survivors of childhood cancer and that this study will highlight the need for better interventions to prevent and treat these conditions," said Rozalyn Rodwin, MD, lead study author and post-doctoral clinical fellow in the pediatrics department at Yale Cancer Center. 

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