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.

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 July 25, 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 July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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