Sunday, July 13, 2014

More on Childhood Cancer

The psychological impact of isolation and separation are a critical part of the psychosocial effects of childhood cancer. Isolation and separation create a chronic stress, which has a definitive impact on the immune system as well as on the individual's psyche (Dhabar, 2011). I think these factors speak to the critical nature of providing these children with psychological support that includes friends and perhaps other children with cancer.

Excessive stress during childhood causes a dysregulation of leukocyes, which has the potential to add to the burden already placed on the immune system for children with cancer (Katz, Sprang, & Cooke, 2012). In healthy individuals, chronic stress can lead to increased mortality later in life as well as decreased cognitive functioning (Seeman, McEwen, Rowe, & Singer, 2001). This would place an additional tremendous burden on survivors of childhood cancer.

Because children tend to live in their own little worlds, it seems important to provide interventions that help them organize their world that suddenly includes cancer, which must be difficult for them to understand. This lack of understanding would likely contribute to the child's evaluation of their disease. Lazarus (1991) believed an experience is only as difficult or challenging as an individual evaluates it to be. Perhaps helping children to alter their perceptions - how they perceived their diagnosis would help them develop a more healthy emotional response. Lazarus found how individuals manage their emotional responses has a powerful effect on how they manage stress. The development of these skills seems critical for children with cancer and for survivors of childhood cancer.


Dhabhar, F. S. (2011). Effects of stress on immune function: Implications for immunoprotection
and immunopathology. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science:
Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 47–63). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Katz, D., Sprang, G., & Cooke, C. (2012). The cost of chronic stress in childhood: understanding and applying the concept of allostatic load. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 40(3), 469-480.

Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psychologist, 46(8), 819-834. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.46.8.819

Seeman, T. E., McEwen, B. S., Rowe, J. W., & Singer, B. H. (2001). Allostatic load as a marker of cumulative biological risk: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98, 4770-4775.

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