Cancer in childhood leaves a burden on mental health

Carlotta Jarach

Credits: Killfile (CC BY 2.0)

Being diagnosed with cancer in childhood is associated with an increased risk of mental health events as an adult: according to an article recently published in Cancer, childhood cancer survivors have more chances to experience psychotic disorders compared to peers.

Dr. Paul C. Nathan from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and colleagues compared 4,117 childhood cancer survivors with 20,269 controls: during the 7.5 years median follow-up, childhood survivors were 34% more likely  to have any mental-health care visits compared to the general population. They were also 13% more likely to experience any severe mental health event such as hospitalization or suicide, while no differences for mood or anxiety disorders appeared.

Childhood cancer is increasingly being cured, but the victory against cancer often comes at the price of long-term damages, both physical and mental. During adolescenthood, mental health is a known problem, and cancer survivors are most at risk for severe mental health outcomes: for this reason, oncologists and physicians in general “should focus on screening for distress and providing mental health resources to survivors of adolescent cancer” and be prepared to tackle their needs, Nathan suggested.


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