Social adjustment in adolescent survivors of pediatric central nervous system tumors: A report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study

Cancer. 2018 Sep 1;124(17):3596-3608. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31593. Epub 2018 Aug 1.


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and predictors of social difficulties in adolescent survivors of central nervous system (CNS) tumors.

Methods: Six hundred sixty-five survivors of CNS tumors (53.8% male and 51.7% treated with cranial radiation therapy [CRT]), who had a current median age of 15.0 years (range, 2.0-17.0 years) and were a median of 12.1 years (range, 8.0-17.7 years) from their diagnosis, were compared with 1376 survivors of solid tumors (50.4% male), who had a median age of 15.0 years (range, 12.0-17.0 years) and were a median of 13.2 years (range, 8.3-17.9 years) from their diagnosis, and 726 siblings (52.2% male), who had a median age of 15.0 years (range, 12.0-17.0 years). Social adjustment was measured with parent-proxy responses to the Behavior Problems Index. Latent profile analysis defined social classes. Multinomial logistic regression, adjusted for age, sex, and age at diagnosis, identified predictors of class membership. Path analyses tested mediating effects of physical limitations, sensory loss, and cognitive impairment on social outcomes.

Results: Caregivers reported that survivors of CNS tumors were more likely to have 0 friends (15.3%) and to interact with friends less than once per week (41.0%) in comparison with survivors of solid tumors (2.9% and 13.6%, respectively) and siblings (2.3% and 8.7%, respectively). Latent profile analysis identified 3 social classes for survivors of CNS tumors: well-adjusted (53.4%), social deficits (16.2%), and poor peer relationships (30.4%). However, 2 classes were identified for survivors of solid tumors and siblings: well-adjusted (86.2% and 91.1%, respectively) and social deficits (13.8% and 8.9%, respectively). CRT predicted class membership for CNS survivors (odds ratio [OR] for poor peer relationships, 1.16/10 Gy; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.25; OR for social deficits 1.14/10 Gy; 95% CI, 1.04-1.25; reference, well-adjusted). Cognitive impairment mediated the association between all social outcomes and CRT (P values < .001).

Conclusion: Almost 50% of survivors of CNS tumors experience social difficulties; the pattern is unique in comparison with solid tumor and sibling groups. Cognitive impairment is associated with increased risk, and this highlights the need for multitargeted interventions.

Keywords: adolescent; brain neoplasms; cognition; social adjustment; survivors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Age of Onset
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Child
  • Cranial Irradiation / adverse effects
  • Cranial Irradiation / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / psychology
  • Male
  • Neuroblastoma / epidemiology
  • Neuroblastoma / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Siblings
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Wilms Tumor / epidemiology
  • Wilms Tumor / psychology