BOSTON - A survey of adult survivors of childhood cancers found that more than one out of eight reported having suicidal thoughts or previous attempts to take their lives many years after they were treated, say scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The suicidal symptoms were reported by more than 12 percent - a greater proportion than had been expected -- of patients seen at a clinic providing care for adult cancer survivors, the researchers write in the August 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The findings should prompt providers at survivor clinics to consider the interaction of physical and emotional factors in their follow-up evaluations of patients, they said.
"Most people are doing fine, but there is a serious concern about the minority of survivors who have thoughts of ending their lives," said Christopher Recklitis, PhD, MPH, a psychologist and director of research in the Perini Family Survivors' Center at Dana-Farber. He is lead author of the paper.
The senior author is Lisa Diller, MD, chief medical officer of Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Care and clinical director of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital Boston.
Previous studies have noted a temporary rise in suicidal thoughts among patients in the months after a cancer diagnosis. The new study is the first to substantiate a significant level of suicidality many years or even decades after treatment for childhood cancers, and to suggest a link with physical functioning in the survivorship period
Recklitis and colleagues conducted the study with the participation of 226 adult survivors of childhood cancer 100 men and 126 women with a mean age of 28.
The participants were interview an average of 18 years after their initial diagnosis with a range of childhood cancers including lymphomas, leukemias, sarcomas, and Wilms' tumor. Individuals diagnosed with brain tumors were not incl
Contact: Bill Schaller
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute