Childhood cancer survivors — particularly those who had brain tumours — tend to experience more learning difficulties in school than their peers, a new Vancouver-based study has found.

Brain tumour survivors had problems in math and reading, and all survivors were twice as likely to be enrolled in special education, according to the study conducted by the B.C. Cancer Agency, B.C. Children’s Hospital and the University of B.C.

Kyle Karamos, 18, a high school student in Maple Ridge, was diagnosed with a brain tumour four years ago and underwent two surgeries, plus two rounds of radiation and chemotherapy.


He said while his health is good again, he’s now having problems in school.

“I find it hard to concentrate and to retain information,” Karamos said. “My memory has got a little worse.”

Doctors said his symptoms are likely the result of the radiation and the stress caused to his brain by the tumour and surgery.

“The way I get around it is taking extra notes and reading over things more than once. I get extra time for taking provincial tests,” Karamos said.

He added that he often stays home from school to study because it’s quieter, making it easier to concentrate.

“It’s something I’m going to have to cope with (for a while). I have to re-learn how to learn.”

Mary McBride, principal investigator at the B.C. Cancer Agency, said researchers are learning more about the long-term effects of childhood cancer treatment because survival rates are increasing dramatically.

“The next step in our research is to address whether the education difficulties faced by childhood cancer survivors persist over time,” she said.

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