Teen Cancer Survivors May be at Risk for Cognitive Issues

Facing down the rigors of cancer and related treatments at any age is difficult at best. Doing so during the formative adolescent years may lead to cognitive problems down the road, a recent study has concluded.

To arrive at those findings, researchers behind the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study spoke with more than 6,000 survivors and their siblings. These individuals completed a symptom index and neurocognitive questionnaire, which offered insights about patient level of emotional distress and cognitive dysfunction. Researchers found that survivors who were diagnosed between the ages of 11 and 21 years of age were more likely than their siblings to develop such issues as depression and anxiety. They were also more likely to have difficulty with emotional regulation, memory and task efficiency than their siblings.

The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shedding light on the post-treatment years for young cancer survivors. While previous studies have shown that those diagnosed with cancer during earlier childhood periods are likely to have impaired functioning, this was the first study that focused on adolescents diagnosed with the disease. In addition to symptoms reported, survivors in the study were also less likely than their siblings to have college degrees, full-time jobs, to be married or living independently.

While further study is needed to more precisely identify the depth of emotional and cognitive impairment adolescents may face following cancer treatment, the researchers say the findings shed light on the potential issue and the need for more follow-up.

Parents of children and teens who are diagnosed with cancer are urged to make certain follow-up care is provided. While treatments may successfully rid children of the disease, the after-effects may linger, giving rise to the need for continued care and support to help young survivors transition into adulthood successfully.

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