Side-effects now threaten long-living cancer patients

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Treatment for testicular cancer is now so successful that the cure has become a cause of disease. Men with the cancer are living so long that the damaging side-effects of the treatment are affecting their quality of life and could cut short their remaining years.

Treatment for testicular cancer is now so successful that the cure has become a cause of disease. Men with the cancer are living so long that the damaging side-effects of the treatment are affecting their quality of life and could cut short their remaining years.

Scientists warn today that with cure rates of 90 per cent in many cases and nearly 50 per cent even in those with the most aggressive or intractable cancers, over-treatment may put patients at unnecessary risk of a range of diseases and damage their long-term wellbeing.

The result is that they may be more at risk from the treatment itself than from the cancer returning.

In an editorial in the current issue of Annals of Oncology, Dr Karim Fizazi, of the Institute Gustave Roussy at Villejuif in France, said it was now vital to direct research towards moderating side-effects.

"Long-term side-effects of treatment need to be considered since patients who reach the stage of complete response are likely to live for decades. In a way, patients have become the victims of the success of treatment," he writes

He was commenting on findings from two studies published in the journal, which examined the long-term toxicity of chemotherapy and radiotherapy used to treat the disease. Researchers led by Dr Max Scheulen and Dr Dirk Strumberg of the West German Cancer Centre at the University of Essen, examined 32 patients aged from 30 to 59 who had been treated with chemotherapy between 13 and 17 years earlier.

Although all 32 reported that they felt healthy, the researchers found a wide range of potentially worrying long-term side-effects. Nearly a third had abnormal functioning of the heart and three quarters had elevated hormone levels indicative of low testosterone levels.

Over 80 per cent had raised cholesterol. Nearly a quarter had some deafness, while over a third had problems with nerve damage.

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