Psychosocial problems

Experiencing cancer as a child may have an impact on your every day life. It is not unusual to feel upset, sad, angry or anxious even years after completion of your cancer treatment.

Dealing with a variety of emotions during and after childhood cancer can cause psychosocial problems. Psychosocial problems are problems that affect both your mental and social wellbeing and can have an impact on your relationships. For mental health problems, please read: Mental health problems.

Psychosocial problems include:

  • Learning difficulties
  • A fractured/difficult educational journey
  • Not being able to find a job or reach your work potential
  • Not being able to live independently
  • Relationship issues
  • Not enjoying social contact with others, feeling isolated

Am I at higher risk of psychosocial problems?

Anyone, including people who have never had cancer treatment, may develop psychosocial problems. However, we know that experiencing cancer as a child can increase the risk of having psychosocial problems later in life. This is particularly true if you were treated for a brain tumour.

What are the signs of psychosocial problems?

There are signs that may suggest you could be experiencing psychosocial problems. You might not have these symptoms and signs at the moment, but it is important to be aware of them in case they may develop in the future.

These signs may suggest that you have psychosocial problems:

  • Difficulties with learning new things
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Avoiding school or work
  • Not finding (enough) work
  • Not being able to live on your own
  • Withdrawing from friends and social contacts
  • Becoming more quiet or withdrawn
  • Becoming more tense, short-tempered or aggressive

If you recognise any of these signs in yourself, please contact your general practitioner, psychologist or follow-up care specialist.

I am at higher risk of psychosocial problems. What tests should I have and when?

If you are at higher risk of psychosocial problems, it is advised to see your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist regularly. They may ask you about your school and/or work performance and whether there has been a progress or decline in your performance lately. Additionally, they may also ask about your relationships to other people.

How often you should see your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist depends on your age:

  • Children (0-18 years): Every 2 years
  • Adults (19 years or older): Every 5 years

What happens if I have psychosocial problems?

If you have psychosocial problems, your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist will probably refer you to a specialist. Depending on the symptoms and/or signs you experience, you may be referred to a:

  • Psychologist / Psychotherapist (healthcare professional specialised in mental health)
  • Educational professional (professional specialised in teaching)
  • Social worker (professional specialised in social problems)
  • Occupational adviser (professional who specialises in work related problems)

The specialist may discuss different options with you.

What else can I do?

Experiencing psychosocial problems can be difficult. Talking to friends and family can be helpful as well as specialist counselling and/or contact with support groups, such as patient organisations. For more information on taking care of your mental health, please read: Mental health problems.

People that experience psychosocial problems may seek comfort in alcohol or drug use. However, it is important to note that drugs and (too much) alcohol can be dangerous for your health. In addition, they cannot solve your problems and may only make them worse. If you believe you are currently dependent on alcohol or drugs, please do not hesitate to contact your general practitioner, follow-up care specialist or a therapist.

Although it may not influence psychosocial problems, it is still important to live a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of your mental health may be beneficial; even small changes to your lifestyle can have a positive impact on both your physical and mental health. For more information on taking up a healthier lifestyle, please read: Health promotion.

It is important that you are aware of the possibility of developing psychosocial problems and that you know the symptoms and signs. It is important to know that you are not alone. If you have any further questions or if the information in this brochure concerns you, please contact your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist.

Where can I find more information?

You may find more information about psychosocial problems online. However, it is important to be aware that this information is not always up to date or accurate.

On this website, you can also find more information related to this topic:

Please note

This PLAIN summary is based on the PanCareFollowUp guideline about “Psychosocial problems” [1], which is based on the consensus of different national guidelines.

While the PanCare PLAIN information group strives to provide accurate and complete information that is up-to-date as of the date of publication, you can check with your general practitioner or follow-up care specialist if this summary reflects the most up-to-date information available and whether it is relevant for you.

Please do not rely solely on this information. It is best to also seek the advice of a qualified medical practitioner if you have questions regarding a specific medical condition, disease, diagnosis or symptom.

No warranty or representation, expressed or implied, is made concerning the accuracy, reliability, completeness, relevance, or timeliness of this information. PanCare has produced the English version and PanCare is not responsible for the translated versions of this summary.

[1] van Kalsbeek, R. et al. (2021) European PANCAREFOLLOWUP recommendations for surveillance of late effects of childhood, adolescent, and Young Adult Cancer, European journal of cancer. Available at: