Young childhood cancer survivors appear more likely to have other issues too. Infants and toddlers who have been treated for cancer tend to reach certain developmental milestones later than do their healthy peers, say researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The findings show that delays may occur early in the course of treatment and suggest that young children with cancer might benefit from such early interventions as physical or language therapy.
Compared to children who had not had cancer, children treated for cancer before age 4 progressed more slowly in vocabulary, cognitive functions such as attention and memory, and motor skills. However, having cancer did not appear to affect children’s social and emotional development. Their ability to respond to their parents was comparable to that of their peers who did not have cancer. Also unaffected by cancer was the ability to engage in make-believe play, such as pretending to pour and serve tea, which typically develops between 12 and 18 months of age.
“In the early years, when children go through such tremendous growth, they arguably are more sensitive to biological and environmental influences than adults are,” said first author Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D. “Our intent was to assess how cancer might affect a child’s quality of life.”
“In recent years, survival rates for many types of childhood cancer have increased,” Dr. Bornstein said. For this reason, quality of life for young cancer survivors is a major concern.
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