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Childhood-cancer survivors face increased risk of PTSD


A new study shows that survivors of childhood cancer face an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as young adults. When comparing more than 6,000 cancer survivors (ranging in age from 18 to 53 years) with a group of healthy siblings, UCLA researchers found those in the first group were more than four times more likely to show symptoms consistent with PTSD. Nine percent of the survivors had such symptoms, compared to 2 percent of the sibling group.

One reason for the increased risk is, according to a release:

...because they're facing the stressful situations typical for people at that age - finding a job, getting married, starting a family. That stress may exacerbate the PTSD, [psychiatrist Margaret Stuber, MD] said.

"It may be that symptoms, clinical distress and functional impairment only emerge among the more vulnerable childhood cancer survivors as they contend with the developmental tasks of young adulthood and the added challenges of the late effects of treatment," the study states. "The relative protection of the parental home is diminished as young adult survivors face the challenges of completing their education, finding a job, getting health insurance, establishing long-lasting intimate relationships and starting a family."

And because many of the patients in the study underwent harsh therapies, they often suffer from significant late effects - infertility, cognitive impairment, stunted growth. This add to stress levels as well. Those that suffer from cognitive impairment may find it impossible to go to college or to land a good job that earns them an adequate income.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Photo by Bhernandez

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