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Children with cancer are being bullied by their classmates, losing friends and risk falling behind at school, research suggests.

The illness can significantly disrupt a child’s education as well as their ability to make and keep friends, according to a report by the CLIC Sargent cancer charity.

It reveals that youngsters with the disease have been bullied by their classmates because they have lost their hair or gained weight – with some even being told that they are going to die.

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The report, based on a survey and interviews with children with cancer and parents, looked at the impact of the disease on youngsters’ primary education.

The findings show that more than a third (35 per cent) of parents said their child had been bullied or teased when they returned to school because of their cancer diagnosis, or the effects of treatment, such as losing their hair or gaining weight due to steroids.

One parent told researchers that some of their son’s classmates tried to steal his hat and another said that their daughter was picked on because she had lost her hair and gained weight.

Another parent said: “James used to have friends at school but the ones closest to him started to be really cruel and nasty to him when he returned after his main cancer treatment.

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“There were occasions when older kids would laugh at him and tell him he was going to die.”

The report, published to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, found that almost half of parents (47 per cent) said their child had grown apart from their friends. The same proportion said their child’s school did not help to maintain contact with classmates and friends while their son or daughter was off.

The study also reveals concerns about the level of education children receive while receiving treatment, and the help they get when they return to school.

About 70 per cent of parents said that their child had some form of education when they were off school but just a third (36 per cent) said that their youngster’s primary school kept in regular contact with the hospital school.

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