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Sleep Issues Affect Kids with Cancer

April 12, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — A new analysis has found that childhood cancer survivors often suffer from sleep problems and fatigue, which negatively impact their attention and memory.

To assess the effects of fatigue and sleep disruption on cognitive function in long-term survivors of childhood cancer, Kevin Krull, Ph.D., of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and his team evaluated a questionnaire filled out by 1,426 individuals from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

Cognitive impairment was identified in over 20 percent of survivors. Study participants’ answers to the questionnaire revealed that long-term survivors of childhood cancer who have problems sleeping or have frequent daytime sleepiness and fatigue are three- to four-times more likely to have attention and memory problems than survivors who sleep well. “Since survivors are already at increased risk for attention and memory problems, sleep loss and fatigue may make these cognitive problems worse,” Dr. Krull was quoted as saying.

The investigators found that survivors’ cognitive problems that are associated with poor sleep and fatigue are unrelated to the effects of brain radiation, chemotherapy, or the current age of the survivor. Also, cancer survivors who are currently taking antidepressant medications are 50-percent more likely to report attention problems and 70-percent more likely to report memory problems.

“These findings suggest that improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue may help to improve attention and memory functions in survivors,” said Dr. Krull. He added that these results may expand to survivors of other medical conditions who demonstrate simultaneous sleep and cognitive problems. Krull also cautions that people taking antidepressant medication should not discontinue use without first consulting with a personal physician.

SOURCE: Cancer, published online April 11, 2011




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