Purpose: To evaluate and compare psychological distress in long-term survivors of solid tumors diagnosed in childhood and their siblings, and to identify significant correlates of psychological distress.
Procedure: Adult survivors (2,778) of solid tumors diagnosed in childhood and 2,925 siblings completed a long-term follow-up questionnaire assessing symptoms associated with depression, somatization, and anxiety, as well as demographic, health, and medical information.
Results: Overall, a large majority of siblings and survivors reported few, if any, symptoms of psychological distress. In the aggregate, solid tumor cancer survivors reported significantly higher levels of global distress as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI-18), as well as higher levels of somatization and anxiety, when compared to siblings. However, when compared to population norms, both survivors and siblings reported lower levels of global and dimensional distress. Female gender, lower educational and income attainment, perceived poor health status and reports of current health problems all were associated with reporting psychological distress symptoms for both survivors and siblings. Among survivors, having a limb amputation was associated with reporting fewer symptoms of global and dimensional distress.
Conclusion: Poor health status, low levels of income, education, and employment appear to be predictors of distress for survivors of solid tumors. Thus, interventions that promote health and facilitate educational advancement, income attainment and social interaction to minimize isolation and maximize social support may reduce psychological distress and promote quality of life for childhood cancer survivors.