Bill introduced to help childhood cancer survivors

WASHINGTON, DC – As breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment help more kids survive cancer, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) are teaming up to create a new pilot program to try to help the more than 300,000 young Americans who have beaten cancer live longer, healthier, cancer-free lives.

The bipartisan Pediatric, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancer Survivorship Research and Quality of Life Act (S.1613) will provide resources to help researchers determine the best methods of follow up care for childhood cancer survivors and improve collaboration among health providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age.  The legislation does not require new federal funding; rather it requires that already appropriated funds for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must be used to establish this new pilot program.

While many side effects of life-saving cancer treatments may occur during treatment, some health complications may not appear until months or years afterwards.  These complications -- called "late effects" -- may include secondary cancers, heart and lung damage, and osteoporosis.

It is estimated that about two-thirds of the 300,000 childhood cancer survivors in the United States are likely to suffer from at least one "late effect" of treatment.

The Reed-Hutchison bill will help educate families about the long-term effects of cancer treatment and get screening for "late effects" based on the particular treatments the patient received.

"Any parent whose child has had cancer will tell you the diagnosis lasts a lifetime.  These kids and their families have been through so much.  They need our support.  Just as we take a specialized approach to treating pediatric cancers, we also need a tailored approach to aftercare to ensure childhood cancer survivors and their families get the help they need," said Senator Reed.  "It is critical that resources are made available to help these survivors, especially those in underserved communities.  Creating standard protocols and procedures will help providers, patients, and families know what to expect after beating cancer, including when to get certain check-ups and tests that guard against late effects."

"There hasn't been enough attention focused on the long-term effects of cancer treatment on children," said Senator Hutchison.  "Our bill is aimed at assuring that we don't forget the complex needs of affected kids.  Study and better understanding of how cancer and cancer treatment impacts youngsters will enable us to anticipate and ameliorate these effects, and help these children move forward with their lives."

Over the past 40 years, survival for childhood cancer patients has increased from under 10 percent to 78 percent.

In 2008, Senator Reed's Conquer Childhood Cancer Act was signed into law to increase support for pediatric cancer research and ensure that more children have access to lifesaving cancer treatment.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  According to the American Cancer Society, this year over 11,000 American children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer.