(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Very young children who undergo treatment for non-CNS cancers manifest deficits in motor, mental, and language development but are similar in cognitive representational abilities and emotional relationships in interaction with their mothers compared to healthy controls, a study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology published online February 2 has found.

In this study, the first to document prospectively the neurodevelopmental consequences of non-CNS cancer, investigators from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD, and Italian institutions enrolled 61 children between the ages of 6 months and 3.5 years (mean age, 19 months) with a diagnosis of cancer and tested them after they had received a mean of 3 months of treatment. All subjects — including 61 matched controls — underwent an identical age-appropriate neuropsychological test battery.

In terms of developmental averages, children with cancer were approximately seven points below average on tests of mental development, and fourteen points below average on motor tests. Better motor and mental performance in the children with cancer were associated with better physician-rated health status at diagnosis and mother-rated behavioral status one month before assessment.

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These results “suggest ways parents and healthcare professionals may plan specific remediations to enhance quality of life in young cancer survivors,” the investigators concluded.