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Minerva Pediatrica 2005 December;57(6):389-98


language: Italian

Psychosocial aspects of survivors of child-hood cancer or leukemia

Massimo L., Zarri D., Caprino D


The majority of childhood cancer patients can expect nowadays to be cured and the percentage is now between 70% and 80%. The number of long-term survivors, off- threatment for at least 5 years, is rising rapidly and is becoming a new population, which needs a special care. It is becoming increasingly important to know how to prevent and treat the physical late effects as well as the psychosocial ones. The oldest among these patients are now in their 40's. How will their old age be like? Are they really cured? The aim of this study is to present a detailed survey of the literature on this topic as well as the authors' personal experience. Several techniques of psychological investigation for this population are highlighted. The semistructured interviews are mostly used for mono-institutional research, while the narrative dialogues are useful for small groups of patients. Questionnaires are usually conducted by epidemiologists for large groups of survivors. Tests are used for specific items such as defense mechanisms, self-esteem, relationships within the family, fear, and panic. The evaluation of the post-traumatic stress disorder is considered and the most important literature data are reported. It is also stressed the need of prevention of any type of psychosocial distress. In conclusion, most of the survivors appear to lead normal adult lives, to have obtained high school degrees, good jobs, and several have families and children. Nevertheless, a small percentage show some psychological or social problems, such as anxiety, depression, fear over the future or over relapse, a second primary, or sterility. The most vulnerable among them are females, people in poor financial conditions, the unemployed and those with poor educations.

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