Do BC's young cancer survivors experience difficulties within our school system?

"CAYACS is a multi-project research program in Cancer Survivor research. This program looks at the risks of later problems among young cancer survivors, their healthcare, education and lifeskills needs, as well as providing information for decision makers to optimize care for maximum quality of life.

In order to carry out such a study, timely access to data is critical for health and healthcare services researchers."

Mary L. McBride, Cancer Control Research Program, British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency

Thanks to advances in medical treatment, over 80% of Canadians between the ages of 0 and 19 years diagnosed with cancer now survive 5 or more years after diagnosis. These survivors are at risk for later and ongoing problems, mainly treatment-related, in multiple domains, including health, education, employment, and independent living.

The Childhood, Adolescent, Young Adult Cancer Survivorship Research Program (CAYACS) is a unique program, the first in Canada, to study survivors to assess long-term risks, identify ongoing support needs and resources, and develop and evaluate strategies for long-term management and support.

Led by Mary McBride, at the BC Cancer Agency, researchers assembled, from the BC Cancer Registry, a cohort of all 5-year survivors of a cancer or tumour diagnosed before 25 years of age in BC from 1970 to 1995. They followed the education experience of the cohort until 2000 and compared it with a randomly selected comparison group of children from BC schools.

The study was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) Research Institute and CCS BC and Yukon Division.


Data sources linked

  • Registry data (BC Cancer Agency)
  • Student registry, annual enrollment records, Foundation Skills Assessment records (BC Ministry of Education)

What did we learn?

Increased survival of children with childhood cancer has resulted in a growing number of suvivors within the education system. Compared to the comparison group of children:

  • Survivors of central nervous system tumors have significant Foundation Skills Assessment* deficits in numeracy and reading
  • Survivors are significantly more likely to receive special education
  • Those who have received radiation treatment (particularly cranial radiation) are at increased risk for poor educational outcomes

*FSA: written in Grades 4, 7, and 10 in the subject areas of reading, writing, and numeracy.

Policy implications

The results of this study have important implications for survivors and their parents, clinicians, and educators, all of whom need to be aware of at-risk groups, potential educational difficulties, and associated risk factors so they can meet the long-term educational needs of these children.

Page last revised: August 13, 2014