Pediatric Blood and Cancer
Improved survival rates of pediatric oncology patients give them the opportunity to return to school. This can present a significant challenge, as returning students often become vulnerable to peer rejection. The objective of this double-arm descriptive study was to establish a framework from which to optimize a school reintegration intervention for the peers of pediatric oncology patients. Ultimately, the study aimed to promote increased knowledge, acceptance by peers, and a smooth transition back to school for childhood cancer survivors. We utilized age-appropriate surveys to evaluate the knowledge and concerns of 3rd to 8th-grade students in Michigan regarding friends with cancer and to identify concerns of pediatric oncology patients at an academic medical center regarding return to school during or after cancer treatment. The majority of 3rd to 8th-grade students correctly answered questions related to etiology, prognosis, side effects, and treatment of cancer. Respondents in 3rd to 5th grade were significantly more likely than 6th to 8th graders to endorse the perception that cancer is contagious (P = 0.0036). Fewer students who had a friend with cancer were worried that their friend might die, compared to those who did not have a friend with cancer (3rd to 5th graders [P = 0.0002]; 6th to 8th graders [P = < 0.0001]). Results suggest that peer intervention may be optimized via customization based upon student concerns rather than focusing on cancer education. Additionally, personalized interventions and assistance for patients should strive to reduce stigma and differentiation from other students.
Fotheringham S, Karabon P, Wunderlich-Barillas T, Traynor J, Gowans K. Optimization of school reintegration for pediatric oncology patients and their peers. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2021 Jun;68:S101–S102.