Difficulties encountered by physicians and mental health professionals in evaluating and caring for affective and behavioral problems in pediatric brain tumor survivors

Support Care Cancer. 2021 Nov;29(11):6771-6780. doi: 10.1007/s00520-021-06250-5. Epub 2021 May 14.


Background: Pediatric brain tumor survivors (PBTS) present a high risk for emotional and behavioral disorders. When addressing these difficulties, differences in study designs; variety of and disagreement about diagnoses; and intricate links of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues may complicate the interpretation of studies and probably also the work of clinicians. We aimed to survey the difficulties perceived by physicians and mental health professionals in their practice and their interest in developing a new evaluative tool.

Methodology: We surveyed 29 health professionals involved in the follow-up of this population. They completed questionnaires about their clinical practice (difficulties, needs, activities) and indicated diagnosis hypotheses and treatment plans on a clinical case developed for this study.

Results: Emotional and behavioral disorders were reported as difficult to assess for 93% of participants. The overlap of symptoms (90%) and the lack of an adapted diagnostic framework (90%) were the main reasons mentioned. Respectively 93%, 90%, and 65% of participants would at least "often" make referrals to psychological (93%), neuropsychological (90%), and psychiatric (65%) assessments and care. Family and group therapy were less common as was drug management. All participants were in favor of creating a tool to help with diagnosis and treatment. When responding to a clinical case, the heterogeneity of participants' responses highlighted their issues in diagnosing and managing these patients.

Conclusion: This survey exemplifies the difficulties of health professionals related to the evaluation and management of affective and behavioral disorders experienced by PBTS. It underlines the need to help professionals by initiating systematic assessment strategies with this vulnerable population.

Keywords: Affective symptoms; Behavioral symptoms; Brain neoplasm; Children; Neurocognitive disorders; Pediatric cancer; Professional practice; Psychosocial care; Survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Physicians*
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Survivors