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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Late Effects of the Central Nervous System

Table 3. Central Nervous System Late Effects continued...


Many childhood cancer survivors have adverse quality of life or other adverse psychological outcomes. Incorporation of psychological screening into clinical visits for childhood cancer survivors may be valuable; however, limiting such evaluations to those returning to long-term follow-up clinics may result in a biased subsample of those with more difficulties, and precise prevalence rates may be difficult to establish. A review of behavioral, emotional, and social adjustment among survivors of childhood brain tumors illustrates this point, in whom rates of psychological maladjustment range from 25% to 93%.[50] In a series of CNS malignancy survivors (n = 802) reported from the CCSS, adverse outcome indicators of successful adult adaptation (educational attainment, income, employment, and marital status) were most likely in survivors who report neurocognitive dysfunction.[4] Collectively, studies evaluating psychosocial outcomes among CNS tumor survivors indicate deficits in social competence in the level of social adjustment that worsen over time.[51] In a CCSS study evaluating predictors of independent living status across diagnostic groups, adult survivors of childhood cancer with neurocognitive, psychological, or physical late effects were less likely to live independently as adults compared with a sibling control group.[52] The presence of chronic health conditions can also impact other aspects of psychological health. In a study evaluating psychological outcomes among long-term survivors treated with hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), 22% of survivors reported adverse outcomes compared with 8% of sibling controls. Somatic distress was the most prevalent among the domains studied and affected 15% of HCT survivors, representing a threefold higher risk compared with siblings. HCT survivors with severe/life-threatening conditions and active chronic GVHD had a twofold increased risk for somatic distress.[53]

The CCSS has shown that adolescents who are long-term survivors of childhood cancer demonstrate significantly higher rates of inattention, social withdrawal, emotional problems, and externalizing problems compared with their siblings. Social withdrawal was associated with adult obesity and physical inactivity. As a result, these psychological problems may increase future risk for chronic health conditions and subsequent neoplasms and support the need to routinely screen and treat psychological problems following cancer therapy.[54] In a study of 101 adult cancer survivors of childhood cancer, psychological screening was performed during a routine annual evaluation at the survivorship clinic at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. On the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised, 32 subjects had a positive screen (indicating psychological distress), and 14 subjects reported at least one suicidal symptom. Risk factors for psychological distress included subjects' dissatisfaction with physical appearance, poor physical health, and treatment with cranial radiation. In this study, the instrument was shown to be feasible in the setting of a clinic visit because the psychological screening was completed in less than 30 minutes. In addition, completion of the instrument itself did not appear to result in distress on the part on the survivors in 80% of cases.[55] These data support the feasibility and importance of consistent assessment of psychosocial distress in a medical clinic setting. However, further study is needed to evaluate the true prevalence of suicidality among a representative cohort of long-term childhood cancer survivors. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Adjustment to Cancer: Anxiety and Distress for more information about psychological distress and cancer patients.)

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