By REBECCA WALSH
Children with cancer are being cured and are living longer - but many develop more serious complications as a result.
Child-cancer specialists want dedicated clinics set up to monitor the physical and psychological impact the treatment has in later life. They are also keen to see national guidelines established to help build up data on how cancer survivors are faring.
On average, 80 per cent of the children now diagnosed with cancer are cured, compared with only 30-40 per cent 25 years ago.
There are about 130-150 new child-cancer cases each year. About one in 900 people is believed to be a cancer survivor.
Dr Michael Sullivan, paediatric oncologist at Christchurch Hospital, said the success of treatments meant more children were now experiencing what doctors called "late effects". These could be physical and/or psychological and extend into their adult lives, affecting both their education and employment opportunities.
Some cancer drugs could affect hearing and others could affect fertility.
Dr Jane Skeen, a paediatric oncologist at Starship children's hospital, said treatment sometimes prevented young people from returning to full activity. One patient whose grandfather had been an All Black had to adjust to the fact that he could never play rugby.
One woman in her 30s found it more difficult to get a mortgage when she told the bank she had had cancer as a child.
American studies show higher rates of unemployment, depression and anxiety among child-cancer survivors.
Dr Sullivan said the country's cancer centres - in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - already provided follow-up care, but the National Paediatric Oncology Steering Group, which meets this week, would push for a focused, national approach with dedicated clinics.
Medical staff would identify potential problems and then refer the patient to the appropriate specialist at the clinic.
Dr Skeen said national guidelines would mean that information could be collected about what was happening to young people and who needed extra attention.
* The Child Cancer Foundation biennial conference is being held in Christchurch this weekend.
Herald Feature: Health
By REBECCA WALSH