BACKGROUND: During maintenance treatment, Dutch pediatric patients with medium-risk (MR) acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) receive intravenous chemotherapy and cyclic dexamethasone. Dexamethasone affects child's sleep and behavior. Standard-risk (SR) patients only receive oral chemotherapy, without dexamethasone. Effects of stratified therapy on parents are not well known. This study compares parental sleep, distress and quality of life (QoL) with the general population, between MR and SR groups, and on- and off-dexamethasone (MR group).
PROCEDURE: One year after diagnosis, parents of MR patients completed the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) sleep, distress thermometer for parents and Short Form-12 (SF-12) twice; once on-dexamethasone and once off-dexamethasone. SR parents completed one measurement. Sleep problems, distress and QoL scores (off-dexamethasone) were compared to reference values and between MR and SR. Score differences on- and off-dexamethasone were assessed by multilevel regression analysis.
RESULTS: Parents (80% mothers) of 121 patients (57% males; 75% MR, 25% SR) completed 191 measurements. Compared to reference values, parents reported more sleep disturbances, higher distress, and lower mental QoL. Additionally, MR parents reported clinical distress (score ≥ 4), whereas SR parents (on average) did not (mean 4.8 ± 2.4 vs 3.5 ± 2.4, P = .02). Within the MR group, outcomes did not significantly differ on- and off-dexamethasone.
CONCLUSIONS: Parents of ALL patients report sleep problems, high distress, and QoL impairment. Within the MR group, parental functioning did not differ on- and off-dexamethasone. However, MR parents reported clinical distress more often than SR parents, possibly reflecting differences in prognostic estimates and treatment burden. This perhaps includes the overall strain of cyclic dexamethasone. This study highlights the need for psychosocial support throughout treatment, regardless of risk stratification.