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Many children diagnosed with thyroid cancer after 3.11 disasters, families still worried

Nearly 80 percent of respondents in a survey by a group supporting children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster say they remain worried about the cancer, despite the prognosis for those who receive appropriate treatment being good.

The survey was conducted by the 3.11 Fund for Children with Thyroid Cancer, an independent, not-for-profit organization providing support for child patients of thyroid cancer and their families. It was sent in August to 67 households of people who were living in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the outbreak of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 and whose medical expenses the fund has helped to cover. A total of 52 households responded -- a response rate of about 78 percent. Twelve of the respondents had received treatment themselves, while seven were fathers and 33 were mothers of those who had been treated.

A total of 40 respondents, or 77 percent, said they remained worried. When asked specifically what they were worried about, 23 people said "a relapse," nine each cited "metastasis" and "health status in general," while five each said they were worried about "pregnancy and childbirth" and "finding a job and working."

Among children, some worried about cancer testing being scaled back. A total of 28 respondents called for the status quo to be maintained, while another 17 respondents called for the testing system to be enhanced. None said it should be downsized.

"Excessive diagnosis" has been blamed in the past for the large number of thyroid cancer patients in the wake of the nuclear disaster, but when given space to write their own opinions, some respondents were supportive of testing from the perspective of early detection of cancer, saying, "It's better than finding out too late," and "If a person has cancer, they'll feel better if it's removed."

The fund's representative director, Hisako Sakiyama, commented, "There's a need to listen to what the afflicted people and their families want, and to hear what problems they are facing."

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