Barcelona, Spain: A new study by Dutch researchers has found that adolescents may suffer from severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress when a parent is recently diagnosed with cancer and that parents tend to underestimate the problems.
A cancer diagnosis is among those life experiences that can be so stressful that it is traumatic. While only a fraction of people who develop post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms can cause emotional problems later in life. Much is known about the psychological effect that cancer has on a patient and a spouse, but the consequences of a parents cancer on children are more poorly understood.
The study, presented today (Wednesday) at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona, is the first to examine PTSS over time in adolescent children of cancer patients.
Dr Gea Huizinga, a health scientist and research fellow at the University Medical Center in Groningen, The Netherlands, examined the prevalence of PTSS, emotional and behavioural problems in 49 adolescents during the first year after a parents cancer diagnosis. The children and each of their parents completed questionnaires three times over the year within four months after the diagnosis and at six and twelve months after the first survey.
At the first assessment, 29 percent of the children reported clinically elevated PTSS, which means they needed psychological help, but the proportion suffering symptoms dropped to 16 percent at the second assessment and then to 14 percent at the third, Huizinga said.
PTSS levels shortly after the parents diagnosis appeared comparable to those seen in our earlier study of adolescents surveyed one to five years after their parents diagnosis, Huizinga added. The two studies together suggest that PTSS related to parental cancer fluctuate over time, decreasing during the first year after diagnosis and resurging during the
|Contact: Emma Ross|
ECCO-the European CanCer Conference