UNMH Program Supports Childhood Cancer Survivors

May 7, 2005

Cathy Garber: 272-5654


Childhood cancer survivors usually grow up to enjoy normal and healthy adulthoods, no longer bound by the cancer that had them trekking in and out of UNM Hospital on school days. But often, childhood cancer survivors suffer long-term side effects caused by their cancer treatments as well as the disease that made them sick in the first place.

At the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) Department of Pediatrics, however, the new "YES Clinic" offers long term follow-up care to childhood cancer survivors, providing them with information and resources to improve their post-cancer lives. Short forYoung Enduring Survivors, the YES clinic also works to identify psychological or learning difficulties, and puts the patient on the right track to combat post-cancer difficulties. The YES Clinic is the only program of its kind in New Mexico .

"The YES program is a multi-disciplinary clinic that provides very specific and individualized care for its patients," says Linda Butros, M.D., director of YES.

According to Butros , New Mexico 's need for a YES Clinic is critical to the long-term care of childhood cancer survivors. Statistics show that one in 600 young American adults ages 20-34 are survivors of childhood cancer, and there is an 80-percent overall survival rate for childhood cancer patients.

With more children surviving cancer, there is a growing population of young adults living with long-term side effects brought on by cancer treatments. In fact, as many as two-thirds of childhood cancer survivors have at least one chronic or late-occurring treatment complication.

The multi-disciplinary YES Team gives children and young adults access to professionals who coordinate the patient's care. Comprised of a neuropsychologist, social worker, endocrinologist and other subspecialty providers, a clinical coordinator and Butros as the program leader, the team works to identify current or possible future problems that the patient may have. Also, through giving patients access to a team of experts, cancer survivors get the multi-disciplinary care that their primary physician cannot often provide. About 35 patients have gone through the clinic since it opened in February.

Before patients are seen by each of the YES Team members, they are required to complete a questionnaire that details their medical history and gives them the opportunity to express any concerns. At the clinic they are seen by YES Team members who are prepared to identify and address problems the child is at risk for, likely to have, or be fearful about.

Through the YES Program, childhood cancer survivors and their families leave UNMH armed with specific knowledge and information about their health, allowing them to get on with their lives as healthy young adults.

"Our most important job is to easesour patients' fears about their future by providing them with specific information relevant to their medical history," Butros says.

The YES Clinic at UNMH is one of many programs springing up around the country. YES serves New Mexicans as well as many other childhood cancer survivors from surrounding areas.

The mission of YES is to optimize quality of life for children and young adult survivors of childhood cancer by providing focused risk-assessment information and screening for multiple physical and psycho-social impacts of disease and treatment.

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