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Central Nervous System


    Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child needs to have tests and procedures to check for signs of brain and spinal cord late effects. If tests are needed, find out how often they should be done.

    Survivors of childhood cancer may have anxiety and depression related to their cancer.

    Survivors of childhood cancer may have anxiety and depression related to physical changes, the way they look, or the fear of cancer coming back. This may cause problems with personal relationships, education, employment, and health. Survivors with these problems may be less likely to live independently as adults.

    Yearly follow-up exams for childhood cancer survivors should include screening and treatment for possible psychological distress.

    Some childhood cancer survivors have post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Being diagnosed and treated for a life-threatening disease may be traumatic. This trauma may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is defined as having certain behaviors following a stressful event that involved death or the threat of death, serious injury, or a threat to oneself or others.

    PTSD can affect cancer survivors in the following ways:

    • Reliving the time they were diagnosed and treated for cancer, in nightmares or flashbacks, and thinking about it all the time.
    • Avoiding places, events, and people that remind them of the cancer experience.
    • Being constantly overexcited, fearful, irritable, or unable to sleep, or having trouble concentrating.

    In general, childhood cancer survivors show low levels of PTSD, depending in part on the coping style of patients and their parents. Survivors who received radiation therapy to the head when younger than 4 years or survivors who received intensive treatment may be at higher risk of PTSD. Family problems, little or no social support from family or friends, and stress not related to the cancer may increase the chances of having PTSD.

    Because avoiding places and persons connected to the cancer may be part of PTSD, survivors with PTSD may not get the medical treatment they need.

    Teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer may have social problems later in life.

    Teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer may reach fewer social milestones or reach them later in life than teenagers not diagnosed with cancer. Social milestones include having a first boyfriend, getting married, and having a child. They may also have trouble getting along with other people or feel like they are not liked by their peers.

    Cancer survivors in this age group have reported being less satisfied with their health and their lives in general compared with others of the same age who did not have cancer. Teenagers and young adults who have survived cancer need special programs that provide psychological, educational, and employment support.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: February 25, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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