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Severity and Longitudinal Course of Depression, Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress in Paediatric and Young Adult Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

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Lee, Ainsley Ryan Yan Bin  ORCID logo
Low, Chen Ee 
Li, Jiaqi 


BACKGROUND: A diagnosis of cancer and treatment may constitute a highly traumatic period for paediatric cancer patients (PYACPs). However, no review has comprehensively analysed how the mental health of PYACPs is acutely affected and the longitudinal course. METHODS: This systematic review followed PRISMA guidelines. Comprehensive searches of databases were conducted to identify studies of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms in PYACPs. Random effects meta-analyses were used for the primary analysis. RESULTS: From 4898 records, 13 studies were included. Acutely after diagnosis, depressive and anxiety symptoms were significantly elevated in PYACPs. Depressive symptoms only significantly decreased after 12 months (standardised mean difference, SMD = -0.88; 95% CI: -0.92, -0.84). This downward trajectory persisted to 18 months (SMD = -1.862; 95% CI: -1.29, -1.09). Anxiety symptoms similarly only decreased after 12 (SMD = -0.34; 95% CI: -0.42, -0.27) up to 18 months (SMD = -0.49; 95% CI: -0.60, -0.39) after the cancer diagnosis. Post-traumatic stress symptoms showed protracted elevations throughout follow-up. Overall, significant predictors of poorer psychological outcomes included unhealthy family functioning, concomitant depression or anxiety, poor cancer prognosis or experiencing cancer and treatment-related side effects. CONCLUSIONS: While depression and anxiety may improve over time with a favourable environment, post-traumatic stress may have a protracted course. Timely identification and psycho-oncological intervention are critical.



anxiety, childhood cancer, depression, meta-analysis, paediatric cancer, post-traumatic stress, psychosocial oncology, supportive care in cancer

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J Clin Med

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