Damocles’ syndrome

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Damocles’ syndrome2016-12-08T19:06:51+00:00

Damocles’ syndrome

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A popular term for a state of long-term uncertainty, stress and anxiety experienced by the patients and families of children treated for leukaemia, linked to future risk of leukaemia relapse or late complications

As an example, despite relatively high cure rates for primary AML–53% 5-year survival, up to 10% of successfully treated patients suffer second malignancies related to the chemotherapy, for which the prognosis is much worse–24% 5-year survival, resulting in a state of uncertainty as to whether having survived the first cancer, a second potentially fatal cancer–fancifully likened to Damocles’ sword–could develop at some time in the future.

Per Cicero, Damocles was a courtier under Dionysius I–tyrant of Syracuse, who lavished praise on his king, in order to ensure his own survival. Dionysius invited Damocles as guest of honour at a magnificent banquet, at which Damocles was seated directly beneath a naked sword suspended by a single thread. 

Synonyms Damocles’ sword syndrome, late complication syndrome, sword of Damocles syndrome  

Reference Cancer 2009 January 1; 115(1): 23–35
doi:  10.1002/cncr.23988

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