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Cancer’s positive flip side: posttraumatic growth after childhood cancer

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Surviving childhood cancer may result in positive psychological changes called posttraumatic growth (PTG). Knowing about the possibility of positive changes may facilitate survivors’ reintegration in daily life. We aimed to (1) describe PTG in Swiss childhood cancer survivors including the most and the least common PTG phenomena on the subscale and item levels and (2) determine factors associated with PTG.


Within the Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (SCCSS), we sent two questionnaires to childhood cancer survivors registered in the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry (SCCR). Eligible survivors were diagnosed after 1990 at age ≤16 years, survived ≥5 years, and were aged ≥18 years at the time the second questionnaire was sent. We included the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) to assess five areas of PTG. We investigated the association of PTG with socio-demographic characteristics, self-reported late effects, and psychological distress, which were assessed in the SCCSS and clinical variables extracted from the SCCR. We used descriptive statistics to describe PTG and linear regressions to investigate factors associated with PTG.


We assessed PTG in 309 childhood cancer survivors. Most individuals reported to have experienced some PTG. The most endorsed change occurred in “relation with others,” the least in “spiritual change.” PTG was significantly higher in survivors with older age at diagnosis (p = 0.001) and those with a longer duration of treatment (p = 0.042), while it was lower in male survivors (p = 0.003).


Supporting experiences of PTG during follow-up may help survivors successfully return to daily life.

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We thank all survivors and their families for participating in our survey, the data managers of the Swiss Pediatric Oncology Group (Claudia Anderegg, Nadine Beusch, Rosa-Emma Garcia, Franziska Hochreutener, Friedgard Julmy, Nadine Lanz, Heike Markiewicz, Genevieve Perrenoud, Annette Reinberger, Renate Siegenthaler, Verena Stahel, and Eva Maria Tinner), and the team of the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry (Vera Mitter, Elisabeth Kiraly, Marlen Spring, Christina Krenger, Priska Wolfli).

Financial support

This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione grant PZ00P3_121682/1 and PZ00P3-141722 to GM); Swiss Cancer League (grant KLS-01605-10-2004, KLS-2215-02-2008, KFS-02631-08-2010, KLS-02783-02-2011); Cancer League Bern; Cancer League Aarau; Swiss Bridge; and Stiftung zur Krebsbekämpfung. The work of the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry is supported by the Swiss Pediatric Oncology Group (, Schweizerische Konferenz der kantonalen Gesundheitsdirektorinnen und—direktoren (, Swiss Cancer Research (, Kinderkrebshilfe Schweiz (, Ernst-Göhner Stiftung, Stiftung Domarena, and National Institute of Cancer Epidemiology and Registration (

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Gisela Michel.

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Swiss Pediatric Oncology Group (SPOG) Scientific Committee: Prof. Dr. med. R. Ammann, Bern; Dr. med. R. Angst, Aarau; Prof. Dr. med. M. Ansari, Geneva; PD Dr. med. M. Beck Popovic, Lausanne; Dr. med. E. Bergstraesser, Zurich; Dr. med. P. Brazzola, Bellinzona; Dr. med. J. Greiner, St. Gallen; Prof. Dr. med. M. Grotzer, Zurich; Dr. med. H. Hengartner, St. Gallen; Prof. Dr. med. T. Kuehne, Basel; Prof. Dr. med. C. Kuehni, Bern; Prof. Dr. med. K. Leibundgut, Bern; Prof. Dr. med. F. Niggli, Zurich; PD Dr. med. J. Rischewski, Lucerne; Prof. Dr. med. N. von der Weid, Basel

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Gianinazzi, M.E., Rueegg, C.S., Vetsch, J. et al. Cancer’s positive flip side: posttraumatic growth after childhood cancer. Support Care Cancer 24, 195–203 (2016).

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