The body image of adolescent survivors

Lay Summary of Luzius Mader’s Study

What was the aim of our study?

The diagnosis of childhood cancer and the difficult treatment are a great challenge for the children affected. Children often feel the consequences years later. We wanted to find out whether the body image of adolescent survivors also changes. To do this, we asked all adolescent survivors about their body image. We compared their answers with those of their siblings. We also investigated whether late physical consequences influence body image. Such late effects are, for example, heart problems, lung diseases, hearing loss or problems with hormones.

Why is this important?
A negative body image can affect many areas of life, such as school, partnerships and overall quality of life. It is important to know if cancer changes body image. If necessary, attention to this issue could be improved in follow-up care and psychological support could be given to affected children.

What exactly did we do in our study?
There are many young cancer survivors in Switzerland. We sent a questionnaire to all young survivors who are now between 16 and 19 years old. 504 teenage survivors filled it out. We compared their answers about body image with those of their siblings without cancer. We also asked the survivors about possible late effects.

What did we find and how do we classify it?
Fortunately, our study showed that adolescent survivors in Switzerland have a normal body image for the most part. Their body image was very similar to that of their siblings. However, we found that young women, survivors after a stem cell transplant and survivors with late physical consequences more often have a negative body image. This was especially the case with problems with motor function (ability to move, walk and dexterity normally) and hormonal problems, such as deficiencies in growth hormone or thyroid hormones. Comprehensive follow-up care is therefore important. In the case of adolescent survivors, body image could be discussed during follow-up and psychological follow-up offered if necessary.

Reference: Belle FN, Sláma T, Schindera C, Diesch-Furlanetto T, Kartal-Kaess M, Kuehni CE, Mader L. Body image in adolescent survivors of childhood cancer: the role of chronic health conditions. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2022. e29958. DOI: 10.1002/pbc.29958.

Here is our whole study:  link

Contact:

Dr. Luzius Mader (luzius.mader@ispm.unibe.ch)

Prof. Claudia E Kuehni (claudia.kuehni@ispm.unibe.ch)