Emotional and behavioral late effects in pediatric oncology survivors
The most common form of childhood cancer is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Patients treated for ALL may experience short- and long-term physiological and cognitive effects due to treatment. However, delayed emotional and behavioral effects in pediatric survivors, as well as risk-factors that may make them more susceptible to developing problems with psychological and behavioral functioning are less understood. Studies investigating pediatric survivors have demonstrated that negative emotional and behavioral late effects can and do occur (Hobbie et al., 2000; Buizer et al. 2006; Novakovic et al., 1996; Mulhern, Wasserman, Friedman, & Fairclough, 1989), and it has been purported that survivors experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem (Koocher, O’Malley, Gogan, & Foster, 1980; Kazak, 1994). Anxiety in particular, has been identified as one of the longest lasting psychological sequelae of cancer (Kazak, 1994). Still, the data on long-term psychological sequelae is mixed, with some studies suggesting healthy, long-term, psychological adjustment (Brown et al., 1992; Fritz, Williams & Amylon, 1988; Greenberg, Kazak, & Meadows, 1989).
This pilot study attempted to investigate emotional and behavioral late effects of cancer as reported by survivors and their caregivers on the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2). This study also investigated potential risk factors that made it more likely to develop emotional and behavioral late-effects. This study hypothesized that females, those undergoing high intensity chemotherapy, and those starting chemotherapy at an earlier age, would report significantly more internalizing and externalizing problems. Analysis revealed significant differences in reporting of anxiety, depression, attention and hyperactivity symptoms combined based on the age when treatment started. No other significant findings were uncovered; however, in an effort to provide directions for future research, patterns in the data were examined by comparing overall means on BASC-2 subscales. For example, females reported more hyperactive symptoms than males. In general, individuals who started treatment at younger ages reported more difficulty with emotional and behavioral functioning. Additionally, males and females adaptive behavior fell within normal limits. Overall, no BASC-2 mean scores were in the at-risk or clinically significant range of impairment suggesting adequate emotional, behavioral and adaptive functioning overall.