Absence from school during the first year after starting major treatment for cancer or chronic or orthopaedic conditions was examined. Retrospective data were collected on 72 children and obtained from hospital records, school registers, and interviews with parents and teachers. Median initial absences caused by treatment were 91, 29-5, and 15 days for cancer, chronic, and orthopaedic patients respectively. The mean proportions of the remaining school time in the year occupied by absences caused by treatment and those not caused by treatment were respectively 17% and 17% for oncology patients, 8% and 12% for chronic patients, and 2% and 11% for orthopaedic patients. The only significant factor associated with the amount of absence caused by treatment was the type of illness. Increased absence not caused by treatment was associated with the amount of treatment time and the patient being a girl. The proportion of absence not caused by treatment decreased if the mother was educated beyond the age of 18. The possible reasons for and effects of excess absence are discussed.
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