AMELIA ISLAND, FloridaChildhood survivors of brain tumors who were diagnosed at age 10 or younger have worse depressive symptomatology and social skills and lower feelings of self-worth than their counterparts who were diagnosed as pre-teens or teenagers, Fiona S.M. Schulte said at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society Third Annual Conference (abstract P6-2). This finding goes counter to previously held assumptions that younger children are immune from the emotional effects of such a devastating diagnosis, said Ms. Schulte, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology at the Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto.
Perception of Self-Worth
Ms. Schulte and her supervisor, Maru E.C. Barrera, MD, evaluated 58 survivors of pediatric brain tumors (aged 8 to 19 years), 7 years, on average, after completion of their treatment. Overall, as the children's perception of their self-worth and personal social skills increased, their depression scores decreased. "This was what you would expect," Ms. Schulte said. However, children who were diagnosed before age 10 had significantly higher depression scores than those diagnosed as preadolescents (age 11 to 13) or adolescents (age 14 to 17). This younger cohort also rated themselves as having lower social skills, compared to the older cohorts.
"Older age at diagnosis and high self-worth may serve as protective factors for perceptions of social skills and depressive symptoms," Ms. Schulte concluded. "These younger children are an important group to target from the beginning with interventions to help them with their social skills and their depression."