Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Parents of children with cancer suffer post-traumatic stress symptoms, both immediate and lingering

14.12.2005


Illness takes a psychological toll on patient’s family

Parents of children with cancer commonly suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, both during treatment and years after their children survive the disease, say researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The researchers recommend that hospital staff members routinely screen parents for such stress symptoms during a child’s treatment, and offer appropriate psychosocial treatments.

"We have found, time and again, that we need to approach and treat these types of traumatic stress from a family perspective," said study leader Anne E. Kazak, Ph.D., ABPP, director of Psychology and co-director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at Children’s Hospital. "Our understanding of these traumatic stress responses should build on existing strengths in families, while being sensitive to parents at higher risk for stress symptoms that may interfere with their daily functioning."



The Children’s Hospital researchers recently published two studies of posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in mothers and fathers of children with cancer. One, in the Oct. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, focuses on parents’ symptoms while their children’s cancer treatments are going on. The study team found that among 119 mothers and 52 fathers, all but one parent had some PTS symptoms.

The second study, in the November issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, describes patterns of those stress symptoms in 98 couples who were parents of an adolescent survivor of childhood cancer. The adolescents had completed treatment an average of five years before the study. Although parents’ PTS symptoms were less common than those found in parents during the period of their children’s treatment, in a majority of families studied, at least one of the parents had moderate to severe PTS.

"We hope these findings will help mothers and fathers to understand it’s normal to have stress symptoms in reaction to their children’s cancer," said psychologist Melissa A. Alderfer, Ph.D., a corresponding author of the second study. "Parents need to take care of themselves, so they can be more helpful to their children."

In an editorial accompanying the Journal of Clinical Oncology study, Sharon Manne of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, refers to parents of children with cancer as the "invisible patients." Even when cancer treatment achieves a cure, she says, "fear of recurrence is a universal, never-ending worry for parents." She notes that traditional measures of psychological distress, which focus on anxiety and depression, "do not capture the full picture," and calls for broadening evaluations of the parents to include assessing traumatic stress responses.

Broad Range of Events May Leave Psychological Trauma

PTS symptoms include intrusive, unwanted thoughts; avoidance of stress-inducing settings and situations; and heightened arousal, such as sweating, dizziness or increased heart rate triggered by reminders of the original experience. Although PTS symptoms are not as severe as full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they are closely related. In a previous study, the Children’s Hospital team found that 20 percent of families of adolescent survivors of childhood cancer had at least one parent with current PTSD.

Stressful events such as learning the child’s cancer diagnosis, seeing the child in pain, emergency hospitalizations, adverse effects of treatment, and deaths of other patients, may all contribute to a parent’s PTS symptoms.

Psychologists originally characterized PTSD among patients suffering the aftereffects of war or natural disasters. "Because cancer is a life-threatening experience," said Dr. Kazak, "it too can inflict similar psychological effects."

Another recent study by Dr. Kazak and colleagues, published online in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, presents a more general model of pediatric traumatic stress that includes traumatic injuries, burns, organ transplantation and chronic medical conditions, in addition to cancer, as experiences that may cause traumatic psychological symptoms. "Potentially traumatic medical events are frequent occurrences for children. Each year one in four children receives medical care for an injury…[while] other conditions, such as burns, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and severe asthma, affect large groups of children," the authors write.

Stress May Take Different Forms Among Parents

The researchers found that during a child’s cancer treatment, parents were not more likely to have higher stress levels if the child had a more intense treatment. "Other studies have found that a family’s subjective experience of a medical event plays a larger role in shaping psychological outcomes than more objective factors such as the intensity of a child’s treatment," said Dr. Alderfer. "If we can identify at-risk families early on, we may be able to provide more effective, brief treatments to the parents."

Recognizing patterns of PTS symptoms among parents of childhood cancer survivors, said Dr. Alderfer, may also guide healthcare providers in better assisting families to cope with stress. Unlike some studies of parental stress, in which fathers are underrepresented, this study analyzed fathers of patients as well as mothers.

The researchers identified five patterns among the 98 participating couples: sometimes mothers had stronger symptoms, sometimes fathers, sometimes neither or both. Another pattern was for a couple to be more emotionally disengaged – not showing frequent avoidance and arousal symptoms, but having trouble concentrating and making decisions. "Stress symptoms play out in different ways from family to family, and the most effective approach to helping parents is to understand and address their individual needs," said Dr. Alderfer.

One treatment used by Dr. Kazak and her team at Children’s Hospital is the Surviving Cancer Competently Intervention Program, using a family group treatment model that has achieved effective results in a one-day, four-session program. "As we continue to understand how families adjust to a child’s traumatic illness, we hope our work contributes to the recognition of parents’ experiences within the overall context of caring for children with cancer," added Dr. Kazak.

John Ascenzi | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.chop.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Millions through license revenues

27.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today

27.04.2017 | Information Technology

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>