A Systematic Review Summarizing the State of Evidence on Bullying in Childhood Cancer Patients/Survivors [Formula: see text]

J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2019 Jan/Feb;36(1):55-68. doi: 10.1177/1043454218810136. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Background: One in four school-aged children is bullied. However, the risk may be greater for childhood cancer patients/survivors (diagnosed <18 years), because of symptoms of the disease and treatment that may prejudice peers. While the serious consequences of bullying are well documented in the general population, bullying may have even greater impact in children with cancer due to the myriad of challenges associated with treatment and prolonged school absence.

Objective: To summarize the state of evidence on bullying in childhood cancer patients/survivors; specifically, the rate and types of bullying experienced and the associated factors.

Method: We searched five electronic databases from inception to February 2018 for original research articles reporting on bullying in childhood cancer patients/survivors.

Results: We identified 29 eligible articles, representing 1,078 patients/survivors ( M = 14.35 years). Self-reports from patients/survivors revealed a considerably higher rate of bullying (32.2%) compared with the general population (25%). Our review identified little information on the factors associated with bullying in patients/survivors. However, the bullying described tended to be verbal and was often related to the physical side effects of treatment, indicating that differences in appearance may prejudice peers. It was further suggested that educating the child's classmates about cancer may prevent bullying.

Conclusions: Our findings confirm that bullying is a significant challenge for many childhood cancer patients/survivors. Additional studies are needed to identify factors that may influence the risk of bullying, which will inform the development of evidence-based interventions and guidelines to prevent bullying in childhood cancer patients/survivors.

Keywords: bullying; childhood cancer; peer victimization; social exclusion; teasing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Bullying / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Peer Group
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Report
  • Students / psychology*