New York, June 11 : Researchers have found that patients who suffered from pediatric neuroblastoma -- a childhood cancer of nerve cells -- may have a higher risk of developing long term psychological difficulties, including depression and attention deficit disorders.
"These findings are novel because this is the first large study that could look at how neuroblastoma patients are doing in terms of psychological and educational outcomes," said one of the researchers Nina Kadan-Lottick from Yale University School of Medicine in the US.
"Our hope is that these findings will help inform strategies for early screening and intervention to identify those survivors at highest risk for developing psychological and educational impairment later on in life," Lottick explained.
The study, published in the journal Cancer, analysed data from 859 children who had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma at least five years earlier and were under 18 years old.
The data were compared with the additional data from 872 siblings of these patients.
The results showed that neuroblastoma survivors had 19 per cent increased prevalence of impairment in the domains of anxiety or depression as opposed to 14 per cent among the siblings.
The team also found that 19 per cent increased risk of headstrong behaviour among the patients as opposed to 13 per cent among the sibling group.
The patients group had 21 per cent higher prevalence of attention deficit disorders and 16 per cent higher risk of antisocial behaviour compared to 13 per cent and 12 per cent risk respectively in the sibling group.
Treatment advances in recent years have prolonged survival for many children diagnosed with neuroblastoma, but their young age at diagnosis and the specific therapies they receive can make them vulnerable to health problems as their central nervous system develops, the study said.
"The goal is not simply to get our patients to be cancer-free but also to optimise their mental, emotional, and social functioning as they move into adolescence and adulthood," Lottick said.