Posters Highlight Need for Psychosocial Support in Adolescent Survivors of Childhood Leukemia

Two posters being presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress 2021 highlighted the need to provide long-term psychosocial support for adolescents who survive childhood leukemia.

Adolescent leukemia survivors often face significant problems as a result of their therapy and long-term hospitalizations. Two new posters being presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Congress 2021 reviewed support programs for survivors and the impact on their quality of life, self-efficacy, and coping skills.

Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) are often overlooked in cancer care, and although there are more than half a million AYA cancer survivors living in the United States, there is little information on how this population does during treatment and well after into survivorship.

The first study specifically aimed to identify the needs and expectations of adolescent survivors when it comes to their long-term follow-up care.1

“Long-term follow-up care is essential in order to provide physical, psychological, social and educational support to adolescents,” the authors wrote. “In this way, it will be possible for adolescents to take on their own roles and responsibilities and to facilitate their adaptation to social life.

The researchers conducted semistructured, in-depth interviews with 14 survivors who ranged in age from 12 years to 18 years. The survivors had completed treatment at least 2 years ago. They identified 3 main themes, each with subthemes:

  • Information needs—long-term follow up, healthy life, and social life, especially related to school
  • Support needs—psychosocial, such as peer relations
  • Emotional, such as fear of relapse, body image, and self esteem

In addition, there were 2 subthemes related to long-term follow-up: barriers and benefits.

“Most survivors think that long-term follow-up is necessary and some of them stated that they feel relieved and safe after follow-up visits,” the researchers wrote.

The second poster evaluated the efficacy of a technology-based psychosocial education and counseling program for a similar population.2 They conducted a single-blind, randomized controlled trial with adolescents who survived leukemia and were between the ages of 12 and 18 years. The survivors had completed treatment at least 2 years ago.

The participants were randomized to the intervention group (n = 24) or the control group (n = 31). The control group received routine follow-up. In the intervention, participants underwent a 10-week, 5-module program. The technology-based intervention program included modules such as “Self-Knowledge and Goal Development” and “Coping Skills.”

For both groups, measurements occurred at baseline, post intervention, 1 month post intervention, and 3 months post intervention. The researchers found that the quality of life of the intervention group was significantly higher than that of the control group at the end of 3 months. Similarly, emotional self-efficacy scores were higher for the intervention group. However, general self-efficacy was not significantly different.

“This program could be integrated into follow-up and used as one of the support methods in providing and maintaining long-term follow-up care by pediatric oncology nurses,” the authors concluded.

References

1. Arpaci T, Altay N, Yozgat AK, Yarali HN, Ozbek NY. Adolescent childhood leukemia survivors' needs and expectations for long term follow up care: a qualitative research. Presented at: ESMO Congress 2021; September 16-21, 2021. Abstract CN15.

2. Arpaci T, Altay N, Copur GY. Evaluation of the effectiveness of technology-based psychosocial education and counseling program for adolescent leukemia survivors: a randomised controlled trial. Presented at: ESMO Congress 2021; September 16-21, 2021. Abstract CN4.