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Sydney Children's Hospital Research Psychologist

Commencing in 1999 Kids with Cancer Foundation has provided over $326,000 in support of the oncology Psychologist position at Sydney Children's Hospital

In the last 3 decades, childhood cancer treatments have improved to such an extent that up to 80% of children now survive. This has resulted in a growing number of young cancer survivors and increased the need for clinical services to address the survivorship issues which have resulted as a consequence of their treatment. Due to the evidence of negative medical outcomes, such as increased risk for further cancers, diabetes, heart disease and infertility, long-term follow-up (L TFU) clinics have been established in many countries to support and monitor survivors.

As well as the physical impact, childhood cancer and its treatment may have a serious psychological impact, with survivors experiencing fear of cancer returning and uncertainty about the future, practical and social consequences, changed roles, and discrimination and insurance issues. Multiple studies and reviews have investigated the long term psychological aftermath of childhood cancer and have reported that survivors are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and reduced quality of life compared to their peers and siblings. As the number of children surviving cancer continues to increase, we need to better understand their needs and concerns and provide better services to support them.

For children, many late effects are not detectable at the end of treatment. Instead, they become obvious only when the child grows and matures, meaning that the provision of medical and psychological care for many years post-treatment is essential. As well, we need more research and better coordination of after-cancer psychological care to identify potential psychological and practical problems (and risk factors for these) and to prevent or address them early and appropriately.

The integral role of a psychologist in supporting and co-ordinating the psychological care of young cancer survivors is now widely recognised and accepted and is considered to be essential for optimal care. However, no such service exists for children successfully treated for cancer at Sydney Children's Hospital. We propose to evaluate the potential role and impact of a specialist psychologist who will co-ordinate the psychological care of our childhood cancer survivors. We intend to develop, pilot and evaluate the role of a paediatric oncology survivorship psychologist at the L TFU Clinic, which is coordinated by the Centre for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders.

The development and evaluation of the new role of a specialist paediatric oncology survivorship psychologist will be modelled on other psychological services provided in the oncology wards for on- treatment children. Addressing young survivors' sychological and support needs will not only benefit patients and their families, but may reduce their future use of the health care system, given that patients with unmet psychological needs have higher utilisation of medical services, higher medical costs and longer hospital stays than psychologically well patients.

Lessons learnt from survivors are continually being translated into clinical care and results used to modify treatment approaches and underpin new supportive care initiatives. What is learnt will be applied to children from birth to 16 years of age currently on treatment or who will be diagnosed in the coming years. We are aiming for survivors who are free of handicaps caused either by their disease or its treatment, who are able to keep up and compete with their peers, who are employable, insurable and able to take their rightful place in society. http://www.behaviouralsciencesunit.org/long-term-follow-up.html
We urge you to consider the children in a hospital near you.  Please donate, post cheques to: Kids with Cancer Foundation, PO Box 135 Westmead NSW 2145 or for credit cards: free-call any donations to 1800 255522, and we guarantee that 100% of these donations will be passed to families, or use this Donate now button or at the top of the page.
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