The researchers report that parents of children with cancer are more likely to prescribe psychotropic drugs.
"These findings highlight that parents of children with cancer experience psychological disorders, sometimes severe enough that some parents seek medical help even a few years after diagnosis - says Dr. Hanin Salem of the Research Center of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen. - They feel anxious, suffer from insomnia and losing interest in daily activities. This could affect the whole family. "
Even though the survival rate of cancer in children is above 80%, parents often fear the eventual death of the child. Recent reviews of long-term adverse psychological effects on the parents have given conflicting results.
Dr. Salem and colleagues used a national health registries to compare the risk of first appointments of antidepressants, anxiolytics and hypnotics in 6744 parents of children with cancer compared with more than 65,000 parents of children who did not have cancer.
The aggregate level of risk the first appointment of psychotropic drugs was 14% for parents of children with cancer and 10% for the parents of children without cancer, researchers report.
During the first year after diagnosis, parents of children with cancer was 83% higher risk of receiving any psychotropic drugs, in 2.99-fold increased risk of receiving anxiolytics and 2.64-fold increased risk of receiving hypnotics.
Recurrence of a child was associated with an increased risk of hypnotics destination for the second year after diagnosis, and the death of a child was associated with an increased risk of giving sleeping pills. Risk destination anxiolytics was also higher in the third year after diagnosis.
The lower level of parental education was associated with an increased risk of prescriptions of antidepressants and anxiolytics, and lower income was associated with an increased risk of sleeping pills and antidepressants appointments.
"Efforts should be made for the training of medical personnel managing stress reactions in the whole family" - says Dr. Salem.
Dr. Emily Lowe from the University of Washington and Children's Seattle hospital, which recently carried out a review of psychological interventions for parents of children and adolescents with chronic diseases, said: "We know that cancer diagnosis in children affects the whole family, and that parental stress can interfere with children's adaptation to diseases such as cancer. The standard of care for all children who have recently been diagnosed with cancer should include a psychosocial assessment to identify the needs of the patient, the parents and the family as a whole. The need for psychosocial treatment for the families of children with cancer range from basic advice on the interaction between stress and adaptation to the disease to psychological interventions to reduce anxiety, depression or sleep problems. "