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Doctors Estimate 1 in 200 Adults in the U.S. Are Pediatric Cancer Survivors

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Rochester: Doctors Estimate 1 in 200 Adults in the U.S. Are Pediatric Cancer Survivors
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Doctors estimate that 1 in 200 adults in the U.S. are pediatric cancer survivors. Volunteer Firefighter Heather Gangemi is one of them. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph nodes, when she was 14.

"It was terrifying. I never thought cancer, even when the doctor told me he wanted my Lymph Nodes in a jar on his desk in the morning. I thought it was just some fluke and I'd be home right after. I didn't think I was going to have cancer. I was not sick. I wasn't one of those sick kids. I was totally healthy. I was running. I was active," said Heather Gangemi, a pediatric cancer survivor.

Gangemi received four months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation.

"They would lay you down in a bed, tape your head and then leave you with this giant machine that would radiate you from the top down and then from the bottom up. It makes a lot of sounds and a lot of noise. And you're all alone," said Gangemi.

Gangemi is now 17 years in remission. But that doesn't mean the effects of having childhood cancer are over. She goes for yearly cancer checkups.

"You go for CT scans. You go for x-rays. You go for all this crazy stuff and the sole purpose is finding cancer and usually you go back to the same place you have treatment. So those first few years when I'm going back to the same rooms I had treatment in, seeing the same nurses and doctors, it was really tough," said Gangemi.

More children than ever are surviving their battles with pediatric cancers, about 80 percent to be exact. But that second chance at life doesn't come without future consequences.

"Pediatrics is not just small adults. Our kids are still growing. Their tissues are still growing. Their bodies are still growing. Their minds are still growing. When you give them chemotherapy and radiation at such a tender age, you're changing some of the way that their body can function," said Dr. Denise Rokitka, Roswell Park Cancer Institute Pediatric Long-term Follow-up Clinic director.

The most common problem survivors have initially is recurrence from their original disease. As they get further from diagnosis, then they have to worry about heart issues and secondary cancers.

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