Aims: Fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) is among the most prevalent and distressing concerns reported by cancer survivors. While younger age is the most consistent predictor of elevated FCR, research to date has focused almost exclusively on adult cancer survivors. This is despite the fact that children with cancer are more likely to survive compared to adults, and will become regular, lifelong users of the medical system to mitigate the effects of toxic treatment. The early experience of cancer yields unique challenges and circumstances that may impact children’s capacity for and experience of FCR across the developmental trajectory. The aim of this paper is to present a developmental perspective of FCR from infancy through to young adulthood.
Methods: Drawing on the developmental science literature and recent theoretical advancements in FCR, we outline cognitive and social factors that may influence children’s capacity for and experience of FCR across the developmental trajectory.
Results: First, distinct developmental groups that fall under the classification of “childhood cancer survivor”, and that all require attention, are summarized. Using the structure of these groupings, we centrally provide a developmental perspective of FCR that offers a useful starting point for research in pediatric populations. Key research gaps, including the need for validated assessment tools to measure FCR in child and adolescent survivors, are highlighted.
Conclusions: Consideration of the unique context of childhood is needed to guide the identification of childhood cancer survivors at risk for FCR as well as the development of effective FCR interventions for this population.