Young cancer survivors suffer range of long-term side effects

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The effects of cancer treatment on adolescents and young adults can be felt many years after treatment is completed, a young cancer survivor told delegates at the COSA Annual Scientific Meeting yesterday.

Kylie Lewis, a primary school teacher and co-chair of the Victorian and Tasmanian Youth Cancer Advisory Board, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at the age of 19, nearly 10 years ago.

She explained that her experiences are similar to those of many young adult cancer survivors, most who are or have been involved with the Victorian and Tasmanian Youth Cancer Advisory Board.

“Cancer treatment can affect self-esteem, body image, distress levels, peer and family relationships, school and career plans and future prospects for adulthood for many years,” Ms Lewis said.

“It can affect fertility, physical appearance and physical ability, it can result in a fear of relapse and can have financial implications, for example when buying health, medical and even travel insurance.”

Rather than attempting to get back to ‘normal’ after treatment, young patients must discover a ‘new normal’ that reflects their readjusted life.

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