Effects of Childhood Cancer Can Linger Long After Disease Is Gone
According to a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, one-fifth of the 78 childhood cancer survivors that were surveyed have symptoms consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder, a condition often associated with postwar phenomena that includes persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event emotionally or physically, feeling emotionally numb, and avoiding reminders of the event.
The researchers, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, the Children's Hospital at Strong in Rochester, N.Y., UCLA, and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, write that some of those who experience this problem may tend to be anxious about other things also. In addition, they may not have received all the counseling necessary to deal with long-term effects of cancer and treatment.
McKee and the medical team at Cook Children's know the importance of talking about how the illness and treatment may impact their lives. McKee says that other childhood cancer survivors talked with him about what to expect when he was dealing with it and it helped him cope. A few years after his transplant, McKee began volunteering his time to counsel others and continues to do so.
As evidenced by McKee's experience, Cook Children's has always diligently provided emotional and medical care for its childhood cancer survivors -- even into their 30s. Recently, they expanded that effort by launching the Life After Cancer Program with the help of cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and his foundation.
"Once we realize a child will survive, than we have to look at what their long-term care will be," says Jeffrey Murray, MD, pediatric oncologist and medical director of the program. "We have to get any issues they may have out on the table and discuss them."
Under the program, pediatric doctors in all specialties are available for consultation, along with nurses, a psychologist, and a social worker. The program will do baseline neuropsychological testing when children are diagnosed so doctors can monitor them for any learning problems during treatment, follow-up, and recovery.
"A lot of the patients do have fatigue and many have sociopsychological problems, maybe even posttraumatic stress syndrome," says Lisa Bashore, MS, RN, CPNP, director of the Life After Cancer Program. She says dealing with cancer, treatment, and recovery often is more difficult for teenagers than for the younger children.