Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer diagnosis doesn't increase child's risk of post-traumatic stress disorder

Date:
January 21, 2014
Source:
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Summary:
Despite being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, childhood cancer patients are no more likely than their healthy peers to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study indicates.

A St. Jude Children's Research Hospital study found that despite being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, childhood cancer patients are no more likely than their healthy peers to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Related Articles


Young cancer patients were also more likely than children who experience other stressful events to report having benefited from the experience. Reported benefits included developing greater empathy and growing closer to family and friends.

The study included 255 St. Jude patients who were ages 8 to 17 when their cancer was diagnosed. Based on self-reported patient symptoms, researchers concluded that 2.8 percent, or seven patients, met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD either when the study was conducted or in the past. The PTSD was cancer-related in two patients. In the other five patients, the anxiety disorder was linked to a drive-by shooting, Hurricane Katrina or other stressful events.

This incidence of PTSD was comparable to rates reported in community samples of children without cancer and a similar group of 101 healthy peers recruited for the study. The prevalence, however, contrasts sharply with previous reports from other investigators who identified cancer-related PTSD as a widespread problem. Those estimates suggested that 20 to 35 percent of childhood cancer patients would develop PTSD.

"These results should be very reassuring to childhood cancer patients and their families," said the study's first and corresponding author Sean Phipps, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Psychology chair. "A cancer diagnosis is a highly significant and challenging event, but this study highlights the impressive capacity of children to adjust to changes in their lives and in most cases do just fine or even thrive emotionally as a result."

PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder that can develop following combat, natural disasters, assaults, life-threatening illnesses and other terrifying events that result in real or potential physical harm. The diagnosis is based on patient reports of certain symptoms, including persistent frightening thoughts, flashbacks, numbness, detachment and sleep disturbances.

For this study, researchers used three established methods to screen pediatric cancer patients and their healthy peers for PTSD. Those included a symptom check list and a structured diagnostic interview about the event each child identified as the most traumatic. Parents were also interviewed about PTSD symptoms in themselves and their children. The study is part of a long-term project to track adjustment and predictors of adjustment in pediatric cancer patients.

Unlike many previous studies of PTSD in cancer patients, researchers initially refrained from asking patients specifically about their diagnosis. Investigators wanted to avoid suggesting to patients that their cancer diagnoses were traumatic, Phipps explained. "We know such suggestions, called focusing illusions, prime individuals to think about their cancer experience as traumatic and leaves them prone to exaggerating its impact in subjective reports," he said.

More than half of the patients identified their cancer as the most stressful event they had experienced. Of those who were long-term survivors, however, less than 25 percent cited cancer as their most traumatic experience. The study included patients whose cancer had been diagnosed between 1 month and more than 5 years earlier.

The cancer patients were recruited between 2009 and 2012 and were battling cancers of the blood, brain and other organs. The patients were divided into roughly equal groups based on the time since their diagnosis. Unlike previous studies of PTSD in pediatric cancer patients, this study included a similar group of healthy children recruited from Memphis-area schools.

Parental interviews suggested slightly higher rates of PTSD in both cancer patients and their healthy peers. Based on parent-reported symptoms, researchers reported that 5.9 percent met the criteria for PTSD. Two percent of the non-cancer volunteers also met the criteria. The difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Phipps, J. L. Klosky, A. Long, M. M. Hudson, Q. Huang, H. Zhang, R. B. Noll. Posttraumatic Stress and Psychological Growth in Children With Cancer: Has the Traumatic Impact of Cancer Been Overestimated? Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2014; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2013.49.8212

Cite This Page:

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "Cancer diagnosis doesn't increase child's risk of post-traumatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140121183251.htm>.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. (2014, January 21). Cancer diagnosis doesn't increase child's risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140121183251.htm
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "Cancer diagnosis doesn't increase child's risk of post-traumatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140121183251.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

AFP (Oct. 25, 2014) — An American nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient in Texas has been declared free of the virus and will leave the hospital. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Newsy (Oct. 25, 2014) — A Harvard University Research Team created genetically engineered stem cells that are able to kill cancer cells, while leaving other cells unharmed. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins