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Young cancer patients struggling social year after diagnosis

The research, which the author says that their findings show the need for supportive care interventions.

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Children who have been affected by cancer are struggling to lead a normal social life, even two years after diagnosis, a study suggests, with many experienced reduced functioning in the social domain. To combat these findings, researchers said that the treatment plans should include measures for the reduction of psychological complaints, and building social support.

“A diagnosis of cancer can interfere with social maturation, the process by which young people develop self-views, social cognition, awareness and emotional regulation that will guide them for the rest of their lives,” lead author Olgan Husson, of the Radbout University Medical Center in the Netherlands, told Reuters.

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The researchers wrote that feelings of isolation could keep young patients far away from friends and family, or symptoms can make it difficult for them to communicate with their colleagues. They came to this conclusion after the follow of 215 patients with cancer in the age between 14 and 39 shortly after they were diagnosed with one of the five major U.S. hospitals, Reuters reported.

The participants survey answered the questions within four months after the diagnosis, one year after the diagnosis and two years after the diagnosis. The researchers analyzed data about the patient’s disease and the severity of symptoms and measured each participant’s level of psychological distress and need for support. Patients were also asked about their social functioning, including the question of whether emotional or physical problems interfere with social activities.

Using a scale of zero to 100 to measure social functioning, the researchers found that young patients had significantly worse social functioning, at all times. The scale also showed about one in 10 participants had consistently high social functioning, but almost a third had consistently low scores.

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“Many of the children with cancer isolate themselves from their colleagues,” Elana Evan, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters. “Their body looks different, there is a lot of the physical symptoms and the psychological symptoms of the treatment.”

Husson says the study, which was published in the journal Cancer, shows the need for supportive care interventions in the form of online social network and peer support groups.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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