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Rx for childhood sarcoma survivors: A lifetime of surveillance and screening

sarcoma survivorship

Laurence Baker, D.O. and Monika Leja, M.D. have established the first Sarcoma Survivorship Clinic. It includes pediatric and adult sarcoma experts across all medical disciplines.

A generation ago, despite aggressive surgery that included radical amputation, newly diagnosed patients with a bone or soft tissue sarcoma often died of cancer. Today the vast majority of these patients are cured. But for many teens and young adults who were successfully treated for sarcoma, the future holds uncertainty about achieving or maintaining good health.

Survivors face unique problems and psychosocial challenges related to sarcoma surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that have a major impact on long-term health. Many have a reduced life expectancy.

Heart disease in a 30-year-old is rare; heart disease in a 30-year-old sarcoma survivor is not. In fact, heart disease is the main issue facing sarcoma survivors – nearly a third will develop a cardiac issue after treatment.

Other potential conditions include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental health problems
  • Sarcoma recurrence
  • Secondary cancer(s)

These illnesses can occur as early as two years after completing sarcoma treatment. Since these medical problems occur much later in the general population, they often go undetected or misdiagnosed in sarcoma survivors, creating delays in intervention and treatment.

Laurence Baker, D.O., professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, has been treating sarcoma patients for more than 40 years. “Patients who are cured of sarcoma as teens should be able to live into their 80s. But we see many of these patients develop heart disease, renal disease or other late effects in their 30s or 40s. These are often treatable issues,” he says.

Dr. Baker advocates for better awareness of the potential for long-term chronic or life-limiting illnesses among survivors of childhood sarcomas. Frequent screenings for heart, vascular or kidney disease and mental health problems can help diagnose and treat – or even prevent – chronic illnesses associated with sarcoma survivorship.

Dr. Baker and Monika Leja, M.D. have established the first Sarcoma Survivorship Clinic, a multi-specialty medical model clinic to care for sarcoma survivors. It includes pediatric and adult sarcoma experts across all medical disciplines. Dr. Leja specializes in preventing or minimizing heart damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer treatment. The clinic was created to monitor adults who have previously been treated for sarcoma and provide early recognition of medical conditions due to the disease or treatment. Patients will have a comprehensive exam by both doctors. In addition, the multidisciplinary clinic includes specialists in kidney disease, endocrinology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and psychiatry to help manage the conditions most often seen in sarcoma survivors.

The Sarcoma Survivorship Clinic is a joint collaboration between the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Frankel Cardiovascular Center’s cardio-oncology program.

Take the next step:

  • Learn more about sarcoma survivorship and how it is treated at the clinic website.
  • Read our press release on the new clinic.
  • To make an appointment at the new sarcoma survivorship clinic, call the U-M Cardiovascular AnswerLine at 888-287-1082.
  • Find out more about sarcoma survivorship from the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative.
  • See how the Sarcoma Foundation of America advocates for sarcoma patients.
  • Get connected with the sarcoma community at the Sarcoma Alliance.

    University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.