Parent understanding of the risk of future limitations secondary to pediatric cancer treatment

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Parents and physicians may have different understandings of a child's risk of future limitations due to cancer or cancer treatment. We evaluated alignment between parent- and physician-estimated risk of late effects.


We surveyed 352 parents of children with cancer within 12 weeks of diagnosis, and the children's oncologists, at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. We assessed parent and physician estimations of the child's risk of future limitations in physical abilities, intelligence, or quality of life (QOL) due to cancer treatment. Physician-estimated risk of limitations ≥50% was considered high risk.


Physicians considered 22% of children at high risk of physical impairments, 9% at high risk for impaired intelligence, and 6% at high risk for impaired QOL. Among high-risk children, 38% of parents recognized this risk in physical abilities, 21% in intelligence, and 5% in QOL. In multivariable analysis, parental understanding of risk, defined as concordant parent and physician estimates, was greater among parents of children at lower risk of future limitations (odds ratio 2.59; 95% confidence interval 1.35–4.96). Regardless of risk, 92% of parents considered it very/extremely important to receive information about potential health implications of cancer treatment.


Although most parents want information about life after cancer, most parents of children at high risk of future impairment do not recognize this risk. Strategies to improve communication about late effects throughout pediatric cancer treatment should prioritize meeting information needs and improving parent understanding of the risk of impairment.

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