141 Post Traumatic Stress and Childhood Cancer

Based on research by Kazak, A.E., et al., (2004), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Have you ever wondered about or experienced the long-term emotional impact a family faces when their child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness?

Most survivors of childhood cancer and their family members are able to adapt after the diagnosis and treatment. However, some families experience severe emotional distress that may affect their ability to function. Psychologists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia evaluated the rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adolescent childhood cancer survivors and their parents. Results revealed that PTSD symptoms are common in families of childhood cancer survivors. In fact, parents reported more symptoms than their adolescents, revealing that the stress of cancer impacts the whole family. Though there were no differences between parents in current levels of PTSD, 18% more mothers than fathers had PTSD at one point since their child’s diagnosis. Out of all the families, 99% had at least one family member with symptoms of re-experiencing the trauma (nightmares, feeling it was happening again, or anxious memories).

This study demonstrates that families with childhood cancer survivors often experience anxiety, troublesome memories, or avoiding the cancer experience. Psychological support for all family members should be included as part of the child’s treatment!


Kazak, A. E., Alderfer, M., Rourke, M. T., Simms, S., Streisand, R., & Grossman, J. R. (2004).          Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in families            of adolescent childhood cancer survivors. Journal of pediatric psychology, 29(3), 211-219.

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