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Survivors of childhood cancers 4 times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder
Date:5/3/2010

Young adult survivors of childhood cancers are four times more likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than their control group siblings, a Childhood Cancer Survivors Study has found.

The study focused on 6,542 childhood cancer survivors over 18 who were diagnosed with cancer between 1970 and 1986 and 368 of their siblings as a control group. The study found that 589 survivors, or 9 percent, reported significant functional impairment and clinical distress as well as symptoms consistent with a full diagnosis of PTSD. In comparison, eight siblings, or 2 percent, reported impairment, distress and PTSD symptoms.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Childhood cancer survivors, like others with PTSD, have been exposed to an event that made them feel very frightened or helpless or horrified," said Dr. Margaret Stuber, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and first author of the study. "This study demonstrates that some of these survivors are suffering many years after successful treatment. Development of PTSD can be quite disabling for cancer survivors. This is treatable and not something they have to just live with."

Affected survivors reported symptoms such as increased arousal, phobias, startling easily, being hyper vigilant, avoidance of reminders of their cancer diagnosis and treatment, being on edge and suffering extreme anxiety. They also reported that the symptoms kept them from functioning normally.

Other studies have looked for PTSD in childhood cancer survivors while they're still children or adolescents, but the percentage reporting symptoms is far less, about 3 percent, Stuber said.

There could be several reasons for the discrepancy. Today's treatment regimens employ less toxic treatments and rely far less on whole head radiation for brain tumors, causing far less trauma to the young patien
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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