People who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder relive their traumatic experiences in the form of flashbacks and nightmares – and in childhood, also in traumatic plays during which they re-enact the experience over and over again. They avoid stimuli that remind them of the trauma or suffer from vegetative hyperarousal such as insomnia, hypervigilance or concentration problems.
For the first time, researchers from the University of Zurich and the University Children’s Hospital Zurich now show that infants and toddlers can also develop posttraumatic stress disorder in the wake of a cancer diagnosis and the subsequent, often very stressful treatment with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery.
Toddlers more at risk than babies
Within the scope of the study, under the supervision of Professor Markus Landolt and with the support of pediatric oncologist Eva Bergsträsser, doctoral student Anna Graf interviewed a total of 48 mothers whose children had been diagnosed with cancer. Nine (18.8 percent) of the babies and young children examined exhibited the complete clinical picture of preschool posttraumatic stress disorder. In another 20 children (41.7 percent), they detected at least some symptoms of a stress disorder, the most common being flashbacks and anxiety. Children over 18 months were considerably more at risk of developing a disorder than younger children. Likewise, posttraumatic stress disorder in the mother increased the probability of a disorder in the child. Interestingly, there was no correlation between the development of posttraumatic stress disorder and the disease characteristics studied.
“The results of our study show that cancer and its treatment can also have a traumatic impact in babyhood and infancy,” explains Professor Landolt. The children affected can develop more prolonged disorders that impair their development. In order to avoid this, various implications for treating young children with cancer emerge: “More care should be taken to ensure that potentially stressful procedures, such as bone marrow aspiration, are carried out as child-friendly and painlessly as possible,” recommends Professor Landolt. Moreover, any measures that improve the child’s sense of security in hospital and during the medical treatment and thus reduce their anxiety should be encouraged. There is therefore an urgent need for personnel that have been trained specifically for childhood ages and an infrastructure that is suitable for children. Last but not least, the parents should also be given as much psychological support as possible since they are the child’s most important reference people and resources during illness.
48 children aged between eight and 48 months
Studying posttraumatic stress disorder in very young children poses a major challenge as the symptoms manifest themselves differently at this age compared to adults or older children. Under the supervision of Professor Markus Landolt and with the support of pediatric oncologist Eva Bergsträsser, doctoral student Anna Graf interviewed a total of 48 mothers whose children had been diagnosed with cancer. At the time of the study, the children were between eight and 48 months old. On average, 15 months had elapsed since the diagnosis.
The most common medical diagnoses were solid tumors, leukemia, lymphomas and brain tumors. 85 percent of the children had received chemotherapy, 56 percent had been operated on, just under 17 percent had been treated with radiotherapy and 12.5 percent had received a bone marrow transplantation. 21 children (about 44 percent) were still undergoing medical treatment at the time of the study.Oncosuisse and the Claus Cramer Stiftung supported the study financially.
Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
When a fish becomes fluid
17.12.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Some brain tumors may respond to immunotherapy, new study suggests
11.12.2018 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy