When Childhood Cancer “Cure” Leads To Rare Problem

Back in the 1975, the movie Jaws came out right before the summer season began. The movie posters showed the gaping open mouth of a Great White shark with a clueless swimmer directly north of it’s nose. The tag line in the television commercials advertising the film had a deep, ominous voice that said, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” A lot of people never dipped a toe in the ocean that summer!

Movie poster shows a woman in the ocean swimming to the right. Below her is a large shark, and only its head and open mouth with teeth can be seen. Within the image is the film's title and above it in a surrounding black background is the phrase "The most terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No. 1 best seller." The bottom of the image details the starring actors and lists credits and the MPAA rating.
Just like a lot of people don’t want to dip their toes in the chronic illness ocean! Source: www.wikimeida.org

Survivors of childhood cancers may feel the same foreboding feeling after a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases demonstrated a link between childhood cancers and autoimmune diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome (where white blood cells attack the glands that produce moisture) and sarcoidosis (which mainly affects the lungs and lymph nodes).

Six bald disney princesses in solidarity with children with childhood cancer
It’s important for children with rare diseases to be able to see people and characters who look like them! Source: www.blatherate.blogspot.com

The reason for this increased risk is two-fold: radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

It is suspected that these treatments can cause the patient to produce autoantibodies and open the door for an autoimmune reaction.

Where curing a child of his or her cancer was formerly the main intent of treatment, the future health needs of childhood cancer survivors must now be considered, and the long-term benefits and risks of treatment should be mapped out, ideally, before treatment begins.

bull on yellow background with text "What is more rare than Childhood Cancer? Funding for Research"
And don’t forget funding for rare diseases like sarcoidosis and Sjogren’s! Source: www.pinterest.com

Research, however, is ongoing, and there is no definitive answer.

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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