Effects of Childhood Cancer Can Linger Long After Disease Is Gone
WebMD News Archive
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.