Advances in treating childhood cancer over the past 40 years have led to significantly improved cure rates. Today greater than 80 percent of children recover from their disease. However, up to two-thirds of them experience long-term side effects as a result of their therapy. Most survivors remain unaware of the late effects of cancer treatments and unfamiliar with how to reduce related risks to their health.
With funds received from St. Baldrick’s Foundation in Dec. 2009, Children's Hospital Central California established our Late Effects/Survivorship Program to serve this at-risk population. The most recent (and third consecutive) gift from St. Baldrick’s comes as our program celebrates its second anniversary. In the years since opening, our program has worked diligently to promote healthy lifestyles for former cancer patients as they enter adulthood, and further research efforts to discover the most effective treatments for cancer cure with the least amount of late effects on survivors.
Dr. John Gates, pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Children's Hospital and physician director of the Late Effects/Survivorship Program, expressed his sincere gratitude for the generous grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “Truly without their help we could not do the things we do,” he said. “The importance of this program is so high and the effort to run the program is great, but the funding to support programs like this is short of the need.”
With ongoing support from St. Baldrick’s, we exceeded our goal of coordinating long-term healthcare services for 100 childhood cancer survivors by over 60 patients. By achieving our objectives to educate, empower and prepare former patients for adulthood, our program is improving the lives of childhood cancer survivors by equipping them with the tools they need to maintain their health as best as possible.
Our existing resources allow us to see only half of our potential patient population. “Currently we see survivors through age 21 and then refer them to adult providers,” said Dr. Gates. “However, the young adult time is so important in establishing identity and behavior choices, plus many of the late effects issues like risk of second cancers, fertility, career and insurance start to impact survivors after the age of 21.” Continued and increased funding will allow us to provide these essential services to a greater percentage of survivors in the years to come.
Children's Hospital Central California thanks the donors and volunteers who gave generously to support our work on behalf of childhood cancer survivors, including the brave souls who participated in the St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event. “Each and every contribution is funding the quality and potential success of our children’s futures,” said Dr. Gates. “Having gone through cancer as a child and survived is not enough. We need our children to thrive as adults.” Your gifts help save and improve lives. Children's Hospital and the medical staff working with these young survivors sincerely thank you for your generous and ongoing support.