Dr Mark Pearce, Newcastle University

01 December 2012
Exploration of psychological and social outcomes in childhood cancer survivors

More children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before. However it is recognised that cancer and its treatment may lead to problems that persist for many years after completing therapy.

The aim of this project is to develop a questionnaire to help understand why and in what way cancer can affect a young person’s life-path after completing treatment.

Amount of grant: £43,523  |  Date of award: December 2012

Great progress has been made in the treatment of childhood cancer, such that three quarters of young patients now survive at least five years from diagnosis.

This has resulted in a large population of childhood cancer survivors; there are estimated to be around 30,000 such survivors alive in the UK today, a number that is increasing by more than 1,000 a year.

Unfortunately, many of these survivors are affected by chronic health problems. Some groups of survivors also suffer cognitive effects such as impaired attention and memory.

It is recognised that children’s psychological and social development may be affected by their cancer, its treatment and the ongoing health and welfare issues. It has been reported that survivors may have problems in education, employment and relationships. Their body image and self-esteem may also be affected and they may have worries about their future health or their ability to have children.

This project sets out to analyse these psychosocial consequences more fully through the development and testing of a questionnaire for survivors that will help us to understand why and in what way cancer may affect a young person’s life-path. It is hoped to gain a fuller understanding of the factors that are associated with, and may determine, poorer psychosocial outcomes for childhood cancer survivors.

The final questionnaire will form part of a subsequent, large-scale study to investigate and determine the pathways to long-term psychosocial outcomes in childhood cancer survivors

About the research team
The multi-disciplinary project team includes Dr Mark Pearce, Director of the Newcastle Thousand Families Study, who has extensive experience in the design and conduct of this kind of research; Dr Roderick Skinner, a Consultant Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist with extensive experience in the long-term follow-up of childhood cancer survivors; and Morwen Brown, a health psychologist, specialising in cancer survivorship.

What difference will this project make?
It is recognised that childhood cancer survivors experience long-term, even life-long, health and welfare issues as a result of their cancer and its treatment. Given the growing population of childhood cancer survivors, it is ever more important we have a proper understanding of these issues so that survivors can receive appropriate monitoring and support.

A greater understanding of the factors influencing quality of survival will enable the development of interventions to support those at potential risk of poorer outcomes and help them progress through childhood, adolescence and adulthood to lead productive, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Read more: Treating childhood cancer | Long-term and late effects of treament


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