Cancer doctors call for GPs’ increased awareness of chemotherapy effects on teens and young adults

Cambridge University cancer doctors are highlighting the late effects of chemotherapy cancer treatments for the 15-24-year-old age group.

The article, published in the British Medical Journal, noted that for this age range, cancer diagnosis in the UK has increased by 19% since the 1990s.

The doctors, all associated with Cambridge University called for improved awareness of long term side effects.

They noted that for this age range, late effects of chemotherapy, including memory loss, deafness, fatigue, hypertension and infertility among others, were different than in younger age ranges. Further studies were needed, the article continued, to explain exactly why this was the case.

By increasing awareness of these long-term effects, doctors would therefore be able to tackle such effects as infertility, at a much earlier stage of treatment.

"If you're a teenager or young adult who has had cancer treatment, you have 20% less chance of becoming pregnant compared to others who haven't had chemotherapy - and some patients will become infertile," said Dr Saif Ahmad at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

“If heart failure can be picked up early and the right drugs used, then side-effects can be reversed."

Particular attention should be considered on psychosocial issues, said Dr Ahmen, such as the fear of the disease returning, and suggests that doctors should seek support groups that can help patients deal with the effects of chemotherapy treatment.

One of our key aims as a charity is to provide accurate and informed support and information for all stages of a brain tumour diagnosis, especially with the effects and implications of treatments.

Our own report, Losing My Place: The reality of childhood with a brain tumour, highlighted many of the long term and lasting side effects of treatment.

71% of respondents aged over five said either their tumour or treatment had led to changes in their physical appearance and 70% said these changes had affected their self-confidence.

“For many children and young people following diagnosis and treatment, life goes on," said Sarah Lindsell, CEO of The Brain Tumour Charity.

“But often in circumstances very different from the years of play, adventure, mischief and self-exploration every parent hopes their child will enjoy."

Our Support & Information Services are here to help with any questions about chemotherapy for children and adults you might have.