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Psychiatry Newsletter - Keeping the Youngest Patients with Cancer on Track

Hopkins BrainWise - Summer 2015

Keeping the Youngest Patients with Cancer on Track

Date: June 15, 2015

Dr. Anna George with patient

An estimated 250,000 children in the U.S. are cancer survivors. It’s an experience, says Johns Hopkins pediatric medical psychologist Anna George, that has the potential to affect their lives in ways that can last a lifetime. Because children and adolescents are still forming their identity, a cancer-related change in functioning can disrupt development at all ages. Many undergo yearslong treatment regimens, and about two-thirds have one or more ongoing medical issues after treatment. Add in the impact of the child’s condition on the whole family, and there’s fertile ground for emotional, physical, learning and other challenges.

“Many kids tell me they don’t feel normal or they feel distressed that they’re having problems behaviorally, socially, with learning and with physical skills,” says George, who uses principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy and behavior management training to help patients adjust to what might be a “new normal.” “Some of these kids had a long stay in the hospital and a long recovery. Our biggest gains come when young patients and their families realize that it’s perfectly normal to need extra help for staying on track.”