Supportive Care in Cancer

, 17:1231

Quality of life in survivors of childhood cancer: a systematic review of the literature (2001–2008)

Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-009-0660-0

Cite this article as:
McDougall, J. & Tsonis, M. Support Care Cancer (2009) 17: 1231. doi:10.1007/s00520-009-0660-0



The purpose of this paper was to provide a comprehensive, contemporary systematic review of studies that have examined the quality of life (QOL) of survivors of childhood cancer in order to extend upon the findings of earlier reviews.

Materials and methods

A review was conducted that used the databases MEDLINE, PubMed, PsycINFO, and CINAHL. Articles were included that were published in English between 2001 and 2008 and used quantitative measures and statistical tests to compare health-related quality of life (HRQL) or QOL of childhood cancer survivors with population norms or matched comparison groups.


Thirteen studies were identified. Findings were contradictory across studies, yet by and large, reflected those of past reviews. In general, survivors’ scores on subscales representing physical, psychological, and social domains of HRQL/QOL were similar to comparisons, with the greatest differences being in physical well-being. Key personal and environmental factors were negatively correlated with the three domains across studies for survivors including: older age at diagnosis, longer time since diagnosis, certain cancer and treatment types, female gender, and a number of socioeconomic factors.


Lack of comparability across studies remains a problem due to wide variation in study focus and designs. Conceptual and methodological issues include: use of numerous HRQOL and QOL measures, lack of distinction between conceptualization and measurement of HRQL and QOL, lack of initial qualitative input from survivors about QOL, little examination of the influence of environmental factors on QOL, little attention to survivors’ satisfaction with life quality, use of small heterogeneous samples, and need for population-based longitudinal studies.


Quality of lifeNeoplasmsCancerSurvivorsChildSystematic review

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thames Valley Children’s CentreLondonCanada
  2. 2.Elborn CollegeThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada