June 13, 1997

Pediatric cancer survivors celebrate

Pediatric cancer survivors celebrate

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Devin Urness, 5 (left) and Erica Holland, 7, with Dr. John Lukens, Jr., director of the division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, at the recent Pediatric Cancer Survivors Center.

The region's first Pediatric Cancer Survivors Conference last weekend gave more than 200 children, parents and siblings a chance to celebrate survivorship and learn more about what may lie ahead.

The lasting medical, social and psychological effects sometimes associated with childhood cancer and its treatment were the topic of keynote speaker Dr. Stacy Nicholson, clinical and research associate in hematology/oncology at Children's National Medical in Washington, D.C.

"The effects of pediatric cancer on the child and on the family are really lifelong," Nicholson said during the conference Saturday morning at the Cumberland Science Museum.

"Regardless of how good the outcome is, this really becomes a part of you."

Nicholson offered reassurance for the parents of children who've been diagnosed with cancer ‹ most later developing effects of pediatric cancer and its treatment are rare.

But, he said, "knowledge is power."

"Knowing these issues may be disconcerting and frightening, but that's not really my purpose," he said. "My purpose is to raise your awareness and tell you that most children who face cancer should go on and live their lives almost as if this never happened."

Among the potential late effects of cancer are the risk of developing a second cancer, growth problems, heart problems, infertility as a result of treatment, educational problems, especially for children who have had brain tumors, and concerns about health and life insurance as adults.

Nicholson said survivors should arm themselves with information such as the specific therapies they have undergone, the known later developing effect risks of their specific cancer and treatment and their family history.

The conference was sponsored by Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and the Vanderbilt Cancer Center.

The event included panel discussions about special resources and the personal stories of survivors and their families, as well as games and crafts for the children.

Sponsors were AMGEN, Alpine Bagel, Post Hillsboro Village Properties, ASTRA, Aladdin, IV Solutions, EMLA, Insty-Prints and Nashville Bank of Commerce.