Psychosocial health in children and adolescents surviving cancer

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Abstract

Aim:

To explore psychosocial health in children and adolescents surviving cancer three years after diagnosis compared with healthy controls, as assessed by adolescents themselves, their parents and teacher.

Material and methods:

Case–control study included 50 children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer between 1 January 1993 and 1 January 2003 and treated at the Paediatric Department St. Olav’s University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway. Data were collected using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (self-report, parent report and teacher report), as well as the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment questionnaire (teacher report).

Results:

Children surviving cancer had more emotional symptoms, higher total problem scores and poorer academic performance than their peers. Emotional problems were consistently reported by parents, teachers and adolescents themselves, in particular in children with brain tumours and among survivors with late effects.

Conclusion:

Our study shows that children surviving cancer are at higher risk for emotional problems when compared with their friends, even after several years following diagnosis and treatment. We conclude that when planning long-term follow-up care, rehabilitation of children and adolescents with cancer, especially for survivors with brain tumours and late effects, should particularly take into account their psychological problems and psychosocial functioning.

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