Purpose: This study aims at defining the frequency and severity of late effects in a series of 288 long-term survivors of childhood cancer treated from 1962 to 1982 at the Giannina Gaslini Children's Research Hospital of Genoa, Italy.
Patients and methods: All cases with a diagnosis of malignancy in childhood and a minimum of 2.5 years from discontinuation of treatment were considered eligible. For all cases the study included physical, endocrinological, and psychological examination. Groups of patients selected according to treatment underwent cardiac, pulmonary, orthopedic, and ophthalmologic evaluation. The sequelae observed were scored according to a grading system in which asymptomatic subclinical defects are distinguished from those that are sufficiently symptomatic to require some type of corrective measure.
Results: Overall, 200 of 288 cases (69.4%) presented with some kind of abnormality. Symptomatic changes were present in 92 cases (42%); in these, severe and life-threatening late toxicity was reported in 61 (21.2%) and 12 cases (4.2%), respectively. The major risk factors appeared to be irradiation, type of tumor, and whether the patient had received therapy before 1974.
Conclusions: In our experience, this study demonstrates that there was a true excess of morbidity caused by the disease and its treatment in long-term survivors from almost any kind of childhood cancer. It also sheds light on how to prevent, diagnose, and adequately treat these patients and proposes specific criteria for the evaluation of the severity of delayed toxicity in long-term survivors of cancer in childhood.