PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to explore the applicability of a psychosocial intervention in childhood cancer patients.
METHODS: This individualized structured psychosocial program to enhance social-emotional functioning and coping with disease-related effects includes six sessions for children and two sessions for parents. This program was part of a combined intervention with physical exercise. Questionnaires are used to evaluate completion of the psychosocial intervention, coping and satisfaction with the psychosocial intervention by patients and psychologists, and ranking of the individual topics by patients, parents, and psychologists.
RESULTS: Of the 30 patients (mean age 13.0 (SD 3.0); 53.3 % male; 30 % still on treatment) who participated in the psychosocial intervention, two dropped out due to medical complications and one due to lack of time; 90 % completed the psychosocial intervention. Overall, patients liked participation in the intervention (4.2 on a 5-point scale; SD 0.8) and were positive about the psychologists (8.1 on a 10-point scale; SD 1.3). Psychologists rated the intervention on several points (e.g., clarity of the manual and content of the intervention), and mean scores ranged from 7.1 (SD 1.1) to 8.6 (SD 0.9) on 10-point scales. Minor adaptations were suggested by patients and psychologists, including customizing according to age and a more patient-tailored approach.
CONCLUSION: This psychosocial intervention for childhood cancer patients appears to be applicable. Future studies need to establish whether this intervention combined with a physical exercise intervention actually improves psychosocial functioning of childhood cancer patients. When proven effective, this combined intervention can be offered to childhood cancer patients and may enhance their physical health and quality of life.