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Make Or Break: How Will Childhood Cancer Treatments Affect Future Sex Lives Of Young Patients?

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The side effects of cancer treatment can be unforgiving at any age, especially on a child's developing brain.

These aggressive treatment procedures often result in lasting neurocognitive injuries, affecting the way young patients socialize with the opposite sex and making it difficult for them to build romantic relationships in the future.

But a recent study suggests that childhood cancer survivors are just as sexually satisfied as their non-cancer counterparts.

Psychosexual Developments In Childhood Cancer Survivors

Vicky Lehmann, of the Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Ohio State University, and her colleagues interviewed more than a hundred childhood cancer survivors. They found that, although the survivors have fewer lifetime sex partners, they were satisfied with their current relationships and sex lives, too.

Publishing their findings in Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the team also noted that survivors who went through certain cancer treatments that were potentially toxic to the brain, such as chemotherapy, took longer in achieving specific psychosexual development milestones — including having their first sexual intercourse, committing to a serious relationship, and having children.

However, Lehmann stressed that several measurements of sexuality are subjective.

"They may not be achieving everything, but it doesn't mean they're less satisfied," she added.

Childhood Cancer In The United States

In the United States alone, there are an estimated 15,780 children between birth and 19 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer each year. Approximately one in every 285 American children will be diagnosed with cancer before they celebrate their 20th birthday.

The leading cause of childhood death in the country, the major types of cancers that affect American kids are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and neuroblastoma, which accounted for more than half of new cancer cases in children in 2016.

Late Effects Of Cancer Treatment In Children

Childhood cancer is treated differently from adult cancer, hence the medical specialty pediatric oncology. Young cancer patients, up to the age of 20, are often treated in a children's cancer center, where they are treated depending on the type and how aggressive the cancer is.

Common childhood cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant. These cancer procedures pose a risk of harming the child's internal organs, bones, and tissues, occurring only after months or years after the treatment has ended. These complications are called late effects.

Second cancers, heart and lung problems, learning difficulties, infertility, and bone damage, such as osteoporosis are some of the documented late and long-term effects of treatment of childhood leukemia.

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