Mental health consequences of childhood cancer

mental health childhood cancerWorldwide, more than 175,000 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year.

Georgie Johnstone, a recent vacation scholar at the Trauma Recovery Lab talks you through some thought-provoking new research on cancer and PTSD.

Overall, in children under 15 years living in the industrialised world, childhood cancer is the 4th most common cause of death. However, childhood cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, with overall survival rates in high-income countries now at about 80 percent.

How are survivors affected by the potentially traumatic experience of their diagnosis and treatment, and how does it impact on the rest of their life and that of their family? Research has indicated that cancer survivors are at an increased risk not only from somatic late effects related to cancer and treatment, but also for depression, anxiety and antisocial behaviour. Lifetime prevalence of cancer-related PTSD has been estimated at 20-35% in survivors and 27-54% in their parents. However, new research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has challenged these estimates.

The risk of a focusing illusion
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The role of siblings in children’s mental health

siblings mental healthWhen you were young(er), did you also engage in personality predictions with your peers based on order in the family? For example, that the oldest of three siblings would be the bossiest and the youngest the most spoiled? Almost everyone (90% of us) have one or more siblings. And we know they play an important role in our lives.

Scientists in the Netherlands have now combined international research examining siblings’ role in children’s mental health. This is an innovative step, since there is quite a lot of research on parenting but not so much on siblings. Moreover, the authors state that the sibling relationship is “one of the most neglected relationships in psychological research and practice.” Also in the child traumatic stress area, I think siblings are still overlooked. Continue reading

ISTSS conference

“Major advances have been made in the assessment and treatment of traumatic stress in the past 20 years.

Despite these advances, the vast majority of those affected by traumatic stress still do not receive any type of services or care.”


The opening sentences on the flyer of the rapidly approaching conference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies ask for action. The meeting is one of the biggest yearly events in the field and it goes well beyond studies only; it includes many clinical workshops and contributions by journalists, policymakers, and (other) advocates. The program looks promising, especially the parts on outreach and innovation, its focus on mental health instead of mental disorders, and its keynote speakers.

And this year there will be more opportunities to follow the conference from afar! The hashtag is #istss and hopefully we’ll have a good group of people tweeting about their insights, available online resources, and shared interests (maybe next year we’ll welcome our first Twitter-born ISTSS initiative/project…?). The society tweets as @ISTSSnews and is also building its presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Are you at the meeting and would you like to learn how you can make best use of Twitter for your work? Come join us on Thursday (noon – 1.15, Diamond Salon 3, abstract 1211)! You can already start following ISTSS members (even when you don’t use Twitter yourself) via this link.

I hope some plans of action will be born or furthered next week. Let’s bridge those service provision gaps together.