Effects of Childhood Cancer Can Linger Long After Disease Is Gone
"Adolescence is a very difficult time for anyone. They want to be independent and away from their parents with their friends," Bashore tells WebMD. "But for kids with cancer, it's even more difficult because they are facing isolation and restrictions."
McKee says that he was old enough to understand the consequences of Hodgkin's and the transplant, and he trusted the doctors. "It made me realize they knew what they were doing."
But some older youngsters have more emotional problems because they are aware of what's happening to them, Murray and Bashore say. The authors of the Journal of Clinical Oncology paper echo this. They say in earlier studies they found a much lower rate -- 4.5% -- of posttraumatic stress disorder in cancer survivors aged 8 to 19. They believe this may be because younger children aren't aware of their own mortality and often don't realize the seriousness of the disease. The average age of the young adults in the current study was 25.
The researchers warn that if young cancer survivors are too anxious about their future, they may stop seeking the medical and psychological care they need. The authors advise that healthcare professionals honestly discuss long-term effects and establish a caring relationship with young adult survivors to support their development.
This is certainly the aim of the Cook Children's program, although Murray says they are still learning. "It will take years for our specialty to refocus on survivors," he says. "We have spent the last 20 years focused on the cure; now we're dealing with our success."
According to McKee, they already are doing a good job. "I go in once a year for a checkup. It's not that I have to go in, but that I like to go in," he says, adding that they give him emotional support and he looks forward to seeing the doctors and nurses. "I don't know what I'll do if I have to go to a regular adult hospital."