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September 11, 1981

The Damocles Syndrome: Psychosocial Consequences of Surviving Childhood Cancer

JAMA. 1981;246(11):1258. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320110062038

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


In the foreword to this excellent book, Dr Leon Eisenberg indicates that the psychological dilemma in childhood cancer has changed from one of adaptation to the imminence of death to a position of needing to cope with uncertain survival. This uncertainty for the child and family is likened to the sword of Damocles from the story told by Cicero.

In this clearly written book, Drs Koocher and O'Malley relate the results of a study begun in 1975. The study was designed to assess the nature and incidence of psychosocial consequences among childhood cancer survivors and their families. As a consequence of this study they hoped to make recommendations for the care of patients to reduce long-term psychological problems apparent from their study. The subjects chosen for this study had survived for more than five years malignancies that had been diagnosed before the age of 18 years. These survivors had been