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Psychosom Med. 1992 Jan-Feb;54(1):30-47.

Long-term psychological adjustment of acute leukemia survivors: impact of bone marrow transplantation versus conventional chemotherapy.

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Psychiatry Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021.


As increasing numbers of patients survive acute leukemia, it has become important to study the long-term psychological and social adjustment of patients who have successfully completed their leukemia treatment. An important aspect of this inquiry is comparing the long-term psychosocial impact of two treatments for acute leukemia: chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. This study examines the psychosocial adjustment of 70 acute leukemia survivors who received either conventional chemotherapy alone (N = 49) or chemotherapy and an allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (N = 21). At the time of assessment, patients were an average of 31 years old, had completed treatment 5 years ago and were physically healthy (mean Karnofsky score of 97). Psychometrically sound, self-report questionnaires assessed global and illness-specific psychological distress and social adjustment. Despite the additional strain and longer hospitalization associated with bone marrow transplantation, there was no difference found between BMT survivors and those treated with conventional chemotherapy alone in current psychological and social functioning. Both groups, however, had significantly greater levels of distress than that observed in normal physically healthy samples. The distress neither reached a psychiatric threshold nor significantly interfered with social adjustment. These data suggest that, irrespective of treatment, acute leukemia survivors experience overall psychological well-being and social adjustment even though they still carry a psychological burden that should be recognized in their continuing follow-up and care.

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