• MedPsych Integrated

PTSD and Cancer Survivors

Cancer is a common but still scary phrase. The fear is often particularly heightened when the patient is a child. A cancer journey is recognizably difficult for the individual undergoing the treatment and management of the disease. Patients are often prepared for the potential for the development of both acute and chronic mental illness. However, the caregivers of these patient are impacted greatly by the emotional, financial and sometimes physical stress of this cancer journey.

Studies have shown that parents of childhood cancer survivors often experience things like anxiety disorder, depression and even PTSD both acutely and chronically. The trauma of receiving the diagnosis and the fear of further diagnoses in addition to other symptoms can be clinically classified as PTSD and managed as such. Some symptoms these parents should look out for include:

  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts about events related to the diagnosis or process

  • Recurrent nightmares about the experiencePSychological distress in respnose to triggers related to the expeirnece

  • Physiological distress in response to triggers related to the experience

  • Avoidance of things, thoughts, or various other aspects associated with the experience

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Exaggerated startle response

If you or someone you know is experiencing some or all of these symptoms and is going through or has previously endured a child who has had cancer it is important to get help.

This screening tool might be helpful in recognizing the symptoms:  http://www.upstate.edu/psych/pdf/education/psychotherapy/cognitive/scl-ubq-v-6-1-13_1.pdf Manne S, Du Hamel K, Gallelli K, Sorgen K, Redd WH. Posttraumatic stress disorder among mothers of pediatric cancer survivors: Diagnosis, comorbidity, and utility of the PTSD Checklist as a screening instrument. Journal of Pediatric Psychology. 1998;23:357–366.

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