Children under treatment for cancer are generally emotionally well-adjusted and no more depressed or anxious than other children their age, according to researchers at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. In studies of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress and quality of life, children with cancer do as well as, and often better than their healthy peers.
We see them as a flourishing population that has adapted to the stress of having cancer and undergoing treatment, said Sean Phipps, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Division of Behavioral Medicine. They become quite resilient to the long-and short-term emotional and physical effects of their disease and the treatments.
The unexpected finding that children with cancer are emotionally resilient is important because of the dramatic improvement in survival rates of pediatric cancers. There has been a shift in research toward the concerns of long-term survivors of pediatric cancers, Phipps said. The ability of these children to cope with the after-effects of cancer is the major issue now. What we are learning from this population might help us learn how to improve the quality of life of children who are not doing so well.
Phipps is the author of an article on adaptive styles in children with cancer that appears in the advanced online issue of Journal of Pediatric Psychology. The article, based on research done by his group and other research teams around the country, was presented at the conference Psychosocial and Neurocognitive Consequences of Childhood Cancer: A Symposium in Tribute to Raymond K. Mulhern, held at St. Jude in September 2006, in honor of the late Raymond K. Mulhern, Ph.D., a pioneer in psychological research in pediatric oncology at the hospital. The symposiums presentations will also appear in a special December issue of the journal.
The low level of depression among children with cancer does not reflect a state of illusory mental health, Phipps said.
|Contact: Summer Freeman|
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital