Background Little is known about how children adapt to life after cancer and what factors influence this process.
Aim To investigate psychological and social aspects of life of paediatric cancer survivors (PCS).
Material and methods Questionnaire survey included 69 PCS (F/M 35/34; mean age 14 years), 2–6 years after oncologic treatment in Department of Paediatrics, Haematology and Oncology, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland. Data was categorised by gender and cancer type (leukaemia and lymphomas, LL-44 and solid tumours, ST-25).
Results 40% of PCS found adjusting to new life difficult. 67% of girls with ST admitted to depression and constant thinking and learning about disease. 40% of patients felt afraid of recurrence (mainly boys with ST) and avoided thinking and talking about it. Half of patients complained of unsatisfactory health. Patients with ST (24%) and after surgery (58%) reported the worst self-estimation, which was associated with visible sequelae of disease/therapy. Cosmetic evidences concerned mostly ST patients while functional-LL. Losing hair was problematic mainly for girls; 30% of PCS felt uglier/worse than peers. 40% of girls and of ST patients felt bullied and reported problems with meeting new people. Instead, PCS kept close contacts with other patients met in clinic. 70% of respondents planned to have children, but 65% of them feared they may also develop cancer.
Conclusions Adaptation to life after cancer is influenced by type of malignancy and gender and is particularly problematic in children with visible sequelae of disease/therapy. Psychological and social support of PCS is essential.