Date Published: 4 September 2013

Adult survivors of childhood cancer generally cope well but some experience depression in later life

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

According to a recent study the majority of adult survivors of childhood cancer cope well. However, some are susceptible to symptoms of depression.

Researchers from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee investigated more than 4,500 adult survivors of childhood cancer who were part of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study Cohort (CCSS) and completed a questionnaire on three separate occasions between 1994 and 2010. The results of the study indicated that psychological distress may emerge decades after a child's original cancer diagnosis.

The majority of adult survivors of childhood cancer who participated in the study reported no or few symptoms of psychological distress over a 13 year follow-up period. That amounts to at least 65% of adult survivors of childhood cancer remaining free of elevated symptoms of psychological distress over the course of the study. A further 15% of the adult survivors who took part in the study showed some initial signs of distress, but this decreased during the follow up period.

Of greatest concern were the 10% of adult survivors of childhood cancer who indicated that they had felt increasing levels of anxiety over time. Some responents reported experiencing persistently high levels of depressive symptoms throughout the 13 year study, in some cases those symptoms accompanied worsening health later in life.

Tara Brinkman, lead author of the study, said:

" Our results found that most childhood cancer survivors don't report significant psychological distress. However, symptoms of distress can fluctuate over time which may be related to late effects of childhood cancer therapy.
_ These findings have important implications for screening practices as survivors who experience increasing distress over time may be missed by a single assessment. Routine screening of adult survivors of childhood cancer for signs of psychological distress could play a crucial role in improving mental health care for these survivors."

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head information nurse, said:

" This is ultimately good news, as most adult survivors of childhood cancer are not directly stressed as a result of their ordeal later in life.
_ But the study draws attention to the fact that too many survivors are susceptible to depression and GPs should be aware of signs of increasing distress among survivors

Ref. to Paper:
Brinkman, TM et al. (2013) Longitudinal patterns of psychological distress in adult survivors of childhood cancer. British Journal of Cancer (2013), 1?9 | doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.428

Source: Cancer Research UK

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