Even Babies Can Have PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder common in young kids being treated for cancer

(RxWiki News) Being treated for cancer is very stressful at any age. Even babies and toddlers can develop stress disorders from cancer treatments.

A recent study looked at the emotional effects of cancer treatments on young children. Around 60 percent of the children in the small study showed signs of emotional trauma.

"Talk to your child's doctor about lowering cancer treatment stressors. "

Markus Landolt, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychosomatics and Psychiatry at the University of Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, oversaw the investigation.

Dr. Landolt said, “The results of our study show that cancer and its treatment can also have a traumatic impact in babyhood and infancy.”

For the study, 48 mothers of children diagnosed and treated for cancer were interviewed. Most of the interviews were done 15 months after the initial diagnosis.

The children were between the ages of 8-48 months and most were still being treated at the time of the interview.

Preschool posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was completely present in 19 percent, and at least partially present in 42 percent of the children interviewed.

Greatest risk for PTSD was found in children who had undergone cancer diagnosis and treatment after the age of 18 months and in children whose mothers also had PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD included insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, trouble concentrating, being overly sensitive, trouble being present or emotionally connecting.

A total of 85 percent of the children involved with the study had gone through chemotherapy, 56 percent had undergone surgery, 17 percent had radiation and 13 percent had experienced a bone marrow transplant.

“More care should be taken to ensure that potentially stressful procedures, such as bone marrow aspiration, are carried out as child-friendly and painlessly as possible,” according to Dr. Landolt.

This study was published in August in Psycho-Oncology. Funding for this study was provided by Oncosuisse and the Claus Cramer Stiftung. No conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
September 7, 2012