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Prevalence and predictors of post-traumatic stress symptoms in adolescent and young adult cancer survivors: a 1-year follow-up study


Correspondence to: School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-1106, USA. E-mail:



Post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) have been identified as a meaningful indicator of distress in cancer survivors. Distinct from young adult survivors of childhood cancer, young people diagnosed with cancer as adolescents and young adults (AYAs) face unique psychosocial issues; however, there is little published research of PTSS in the AYA population. This study examines prevalence and predictors of PTSS among AYAs with cancer.


As part of a longitudinal study of AYAs with cancer, 151 patients aged 15–39 years completed mailed surveys at 6 and 12 months post-diagnosis. Severity of PTSS was estimated at 6 and 12 months post-diagnosis. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to investigate the predictive effects of socio-demographic and clinical characteristics on changes in PTSS over time.


At 6 and 12 months, respectively, 39% and 44% of participants reported moderate to severe levels of PTSS; 29% had PTSS levels suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder. No significant differences in severity of PTSS between 6 and 12 months were observed. Regression analyses suggested that a greater number of side effects were associated with higher levels of PTSS at 6 months. Currently receiving treatment, having surgical treatment, diagnosis of a cancer type with a 90–100% survival rate, remaining unemployed/not in school, and greater PTSS at 6 months were associated with higher levels of PTSS at 12 months.


Post-traumatic stress symptoms were observed as early as 6 months following diagnosis and remained stable at 12-month follow-up. The development of early interventions for reducing distress among AYA patients in treatment is recommended.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.