Social, Emotional, and Other Issues in People With Osteosarcoma
Social and emotional issues may come up during and after treatment. Factors such as the person’s age when diagnosed and the extent of treatment can play a role in this.
Most osteosarcomas develop during the teenage or young adult years, a very sensitive time in a person’s life. Osteosarcoma and its treatment can have a profound effect on how a person looks and how they view themselves and their body. It can also affect how they do some everyday tasks, including certain school, work, or recreational activities. These effects are often greatest during the first year of treatment, but they can be long-lasting in some people. It’s important that the treating center assess the family situation as soon as possible, so that any areas of concern can be addressed.
Some children and teens may have emotional or psychological issues that need to be addressed during and after treatment. Depending on their age, they may also have some problems with normal functioning and school work. These can often be overcome with support and encouragement. Doctors and other members of the health care team can also often recommend special support programs and services to help after treatment.
Cancer care teams usually recommend that school-age children and teens attend school as much as possible. This can help them maintain a sense of daily routine and keep their friends informed about what is going on.
Friends can be a great source of support, but patients and parents should know that some people have misunderstandings and fears about cancer. Some cancer centers have a school re-entry program that can help in situations like this. In this program, health educators visit the school and tell students about the diagnosis, treatment, and changes the person may go through. They also answer any questions from teachers and classmates. (For more information, see our document Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Returning to School.)
Centers that treat many patients with osteosarcoma might have programs to introduce new patients to others who have already finished treatment. This can give patients an idea of what to expect during and after treatment, which is very important. Seeing another person with osteosarcoma doing well is often helpful. There are also support groups that encourage athletics and full use of the limbs. Many amputees or people with prostheses are able to take part in athletics and often do.
Parents and other family members can also be affected, both emotionally and in other ways. Some common family concerns during treatment include financial stresses, traveling to and staying near the cancer center, the possible loss of a job, and the need for home schooling. Social workers and other professionals at cancer centers can help families sort through these issues.
During treatment, patients and their families tend to focus on the daily aspects of getting through it and beating the cancer. But once treatment is finished, a number of emotional concerns can arise. Some of these might last a long time. They can include things like:
- Dealing with physical changes that can result from the treatment
- Worrying about the cancer returning or new health problems developing
- Feeling resentful for having had cancer or having to go through treatment when others do not
- Worrying about being treated differently or discriminated against (by friends, classmates, coworkers, employers, etc.)
- Being concerned about dating, marrying, and having a family later in life
No one chooses to have osteosarcoma, but for many people, the experience can eventually be positive, helping to establish strong self-values. Other people may have a harder time recovering, adjusting to life after cancer, and moving on. It is normal to have some anxiety or other emotional reactions after treatment, but feeling overly worried, depressed, or angry can affect many parts of a young person’s growth. It can get in the way of relationships, school, work, and other aspects of life.
With support from family, friends, other survivors, mental health professionals, and others, many people who have survived cancer can thrive in spite of the challenges they’ve had to face. If needed, doctors and other members of the health care team can often recommend special support programs and services to help after cancer treatment.
Although the psychological impact of this disease on children and teens is most obvious, adults with this disease face many of the same challenges. They should also be encouraged to take advantage of the cancer center’s physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling services.
Last Medical Review: April 18, 2014 Last Revised: January 27, 2016