BACKGROUND: The improved prognosis of childhood cancer makes monitoring of functional outcome important. The purpose of this study was to evaluate behavioral and educational functioning in survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or a Wilms tumor. In this study, children with ALL received central nervous system directed chemotherapy without cranial irradiation.
METHODS: In a multicenter study, behavioral functioning and school performance was examined in 199 children age 4 to 18. Sixty-four children were at least 1 year from finishing treatment with chemotherapy for ALL (n = 28) or a Wilms tumor (n = 36). They were compared with siblings (n = 37) and with a control group of healthy schoolchildren (n = 98).
RESULTS: A moderately increased risk of behavioral and educational problems was found in children with ALL but not in children with Wilms tumor. School performance was poorer in children with ALL attending primary school compared with same-age peers; however, the rate of utilization of special education services was low. Teacher-rated behavior and mathematics performance was correlated with attention function in children with ALL. An excess of problem behavior and underperformance at school was found in the ALL high-risk group compared with the standard-risk group. No differences were found between siblings and controls.
CONCLUSION: Evidence is provided of subtle but significant behavioral and educational problems in survivors of childhood ALL, but no dysfunctions in survivors of a Wilms tumor. Careful follow-up of children with ALL treated with chemotherapy only is warranted.