New data: more than 8 out of 10 childhood cancer survivors struggle with health problems later in life

New data reveals that over 81 per cent of childhood cancer survivors develop at least one life-changing mental or physical health issue after cancer treatment received as a child1

Late physical effects include heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis. Many survivors also experience serious psychological late effects, with almost 50 per cent of survivors reporting anxiety or depression2.

More than 20,000 young Australians are survivors of paediatric cancer, so over 16,000 of them are currently suffering from physical and mental issues developed after treatment.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Professor Jeff Dunn AO, said the report highlighted the importance of programs to support childhood cancer survivors.

“These findings demonstrate the urgent need to better manage the ongoing physical and mental illness after treatment, and to improve quality of life for survivors and their families,” Prof Dunn said.

“Strategies to promote healthy eating after treatment and build resilience in young people are particularly important.

“The impacts of childhood cancer can affect survivors and their families for many years after treatment, and can sometimes even worsen over time.”

The research also found no consistent model of care3.

“Childhood cancer survivors usually transition back to the care of their GP, who may not be experienced in diagnosing late effects, requiring many young survivors to self-manage their ongoing physical and mental health needs,” Prof Dunn said.

“Research shows that healthy eating is particularly important following a diagnosis of childhood cancer, with children’s body mass index increasing when they finish treatment and the potential for weight problems4 to continue for up to seven years after treatment.

“Often, children find it hard to accept that they can’t routinely eat some of the treats they might have had during treatment, and returning to good eating habits can be hard.

“It’s also extremely challenging for young people to return to ‘normal’ life after cancer.

“A diagnosis of childhood cancer can drastically change relationships with family and friends, impacting physical and mental health and creating ongoing distress associated with fears of the future or cancer recurrence.

“Childhood cancer survivors and their family members are encouraged to call 13 11 20 for support with life after cancer, for accessing a range of services and programs that can assist with these challenges,” he said.

This August, help Cancer Council Queensland improve the lives of cancer survivors by donating to Daffodil Day, Friday August 26.

Queenslanders can purchase fresh daffodils and merchandise, or make a donation, at or via 1300 65 65 85.

All funds raised support all Queenslanders, all cancers.

The Australian-first joint research was led by University of NSW Associate Professor Claire Wakefield and Cancer Council New South Wales.

For more information about Cancer Council Queensland, visit  or phone 13 11 20.


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift,
Executive Manager,
Media and Spokesperson,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5372
Mobile: 0409 001 171


[1] Survey data from ongoing research at the Behavioural Sciences Unit, Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, 2016
2 McLoone JK, Signorelli C, Wakefield CE, et al: Evaluating the psychological health and wellbeing of childhood cancer survivors, APS Health Psychology Conference. Coogee, Australia, 2015
3 McLoone JK, Wakefield CE, R. Lawrence, et al: Comparing the models of care utilised by Australia and New Zealand childhood cancer long term follow-up clinics., Australian & New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Group (ANZCHOG), Annual Scientific Meeting. Melbourne, VIC, Australia, 2013
4 Touyz L, Cohen J, Neville KA, Wakefield CE, et al: Changes in Body Mass Index in Long Term Survivors of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Treated without Cranial Radiation and with Reduced Glucocorticoid Therapy, expected publication 2016