PanCareLIFE – Reducing Late Effects and Improving Quality of Life for Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Cancer therapies have now become so effective that most children diagnosed with cancer in Europe will survive. However, the journey of cancer survivors does not end with cure of their cancer. The late effects of cancer therapy can lower the quality of life of survivors – among the most important late effects are loss of fertility, hearing impairment and compromised quality of life. The aim of the PanCareLIFE project is to ensure that survivors of childhood cancer enjoy the same quality of life and opportunities as their peers who have not had cancer. The project brings together a multi-disciplinary team committed to improving the long-term health of survivors.  and who have agreed to pool their large populations of survivors from across Europe.

Childhood Cancer Information

What Are Late Effects?

Treatments for childhood cancer are often harsh and while they are effective against the cancer itself they may also damage healthy organs, bones and tissue. These adverse long-term health-related outcomes, referred to as “late effects,” may appear months to years after completion of cancer treatment.  Examples include reduced fertility, hearing impairment, depression, heart disease and secondary cancers. Many late effects are not life-threatening, but they can cause serious health problems that affect the quality of life of survivors.

What Can We Do About Late Effects?

PanCareLIFE researchers are looking at ways to identify, prevent and reduce the impact of late effects. In some cases, it may be possible to change cancer treatments so that they are less toxic, but equally effective;  this is already occurring with radiotherapy treatments. Another way to reduce the impact of late effects is to ensure that patients and their families are educated about the risks of late effects and their treatment options. For example, fertility can be impaired after cancer treatment. Banking sperm or eggs can preserve fertility, but this must happen before initiation of the cancer therapy.

Regular follow-up care by medical professionals who are aware of the potential impact of late effects is very important for survivors. Researchers can work to inform medical professionals, as well as survivors and their families, of their findings to ensure that cancer survivors receive long-term follow-up care informed by the latest research throughout their lifetime.