In an interesting study, 20% of infants and toddlers suffering from cancer have been found to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study has since been published in the journal, Psycho-Oncology.
Researchers at University of Zurich and University Children’s Hospital Zurich conducted the study. The lead author, Anna Graf, M.D. and her team studied the prevalence of PTSD in 48 patients between the ages of 8 to 48 months. The assessment of PTSD and its determinants were carried out after 15 months of cancer diagnosis. Mothers were the primary informants and they filled in the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Semi-Structured Interview and Observational Record for Infant and Young Children. In addition, mothers along with pediatric oncologists of the patients in study were asked to complete questionnaires on various PTSD determinants.
The study results brought to fore these salient observations,
- 18.8% of children demonstrated age-appropriate criteria for full PTSD.
- 41.7% showed presence of partial PTSD.
- Higher age of child at diagnosis and presence of PTSD in mothers increased the risk of full or partial PTSD in children.
The researchers concluded that the results clearly indicate the presence of PTSD in young children who are suffering from cancer. In addition, the study also highlights the need for evaluation of PTSD in pediatric cancer patients as well as in their parents.
The most common symptoms experienced by these young patients were anxiety and flashbacks. However, it should be mentioned, that the study did not find any correlation between the type of cancer and risk of PTSD.
The types of cancers that participants had included solid tumors, brain tumors, leukemia, and lymphomas. Among the children studied, 85% had received chemotherapy, 56% had had surgery, 17% had undergone radiation therapy, and 12.5 % had received bone marrow transplant. 21% of children were under treatment for cancer at the time of study.
Cancer treatment can be very aggressive and traumatic for young children. The pain, discomfort, and timeless hospitalizations can take a toll on a young mind. Pediatric oncology patients should be given that extra care and support in the medical facility so as to reduce the feeling of insecurity. It may also be helpful to conduct procedures as painlessly as possible.
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