Self-report of somatic symptoms in survivors of childhood cancer: Effects of adaptive style




Screening for late effects in survivors of childhood cancer may be influenced by the patients' self-reporting of their somatic state. However, self report of somatic symptoms may be influenced by factors other than objectively documented physical functions. This study examined the self report of somatic symptoms in children with cancer and matched healthy control children as a function of child adaptive style.


Two groups of children age 7–18 were studied; children with cancer at least 6-month post completion of therapy (n = 120) and a group of healthy children (n = 120) matched on age, race, and gender. Children completed measures of somatic symptoms, body consciousness, and adaptive style.


Contrary to expectations, there were no differences between children with cancer and healthy controls in self-reported somatic symptoms, although cancer patients reported slightly lower symptomatology. In contrast, there were significant differences in self-reported somatic symptoms as a function of adaptive style. Children identified as repressors reported the lowest level of somatic symptoms and differed significantly from all other adaptive style groups.


These results do not support the prevailing hypothesis that a repressive style may be a risk factor for psychosomatic illness. However, the findings are consistent with a response bias interpretation, suggesting a general under-reporting of symptoms in repressors, including physical symptoms. These results have significant implications for health care providers and researchers following long-term survivors of childhood cancer. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2007;49:84–89. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.