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 Researchers release the brakes on the immune system
18.10.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Norovirus evades immune system by hiding out in rare gut cells
12.10.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>