Utilization of psychosocial care and oncological follow-up assessments among German long-term survivors of cancer with onset during adolescence

U Dieluweit, D C M Seitz, T Besier, K-M Debatin, D Grabow, P Kaatsch, L Goldbeck
Klinische Pädiatrie 2011, 223 (3): 152-8

BACKGROUND: Survivors of pediatric cancer are at increased risk for medical and psychosocial late effects. This study retrospectively investigated the utilization of oncological and psychosocial care by former adolescent cancer patients (≥ 5 years since cancer diagnosis) in Germany.

PATIENTS: Based on data of the German Childhood Cancer Registry (N=1 876 survivors of cancer with an age at diagnosis between 15 and 18 years), the study cohort comprised 820 survivors of adolescent cancer (time since diagnosis: M=13.7, SD=6.0, age at follow-up: M=30.4, SD=6.0 years).

METHOD: Survivors of adolescent cancer completed standardized questionnaires measuring symptoms of posttraumatic stress, depression and anxiety as well as items on their utilization of medical and psychosocial care.

RESULTS: More than a quarter (26.2%) of the survivors was no longer attending regular oncological follow-up assessments. Less than half of the survivors (44.4%) had received psychosocial care, mostly during their in-patient cancer treatment and their post-acute rehabilitation phase. Out of 184 survivors showing clinically relevant symptoms of posttraumatic stress, anxiety and/or depression at time of the study, 12.0% received psychosocial care and 13.6% took psychotropic medication.

CONCLUSION: It should be studied further why only a small proportion of the survivors showing clinically relevant symptoms received psychosocial or psychopharmacological treatment. Systematic oncological follow-up assessments should take psychological late effects into greater account.

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