Programme no. 170-OP
Parenting under-aged children when having cancer - challenges and needs
Anette Hauskov Graungaard*1
1The University Clinic of General Practice,University of Copenhagen,Copenhagen,Denmark;The Research Unit for General Practice,University of Copenhagen,Copenhagen,Denmark
* = Presenting author
Objectives: To explore parents’ worries, challenges and needs in parenting young children and how to improve support of the family.
Background: Twenty percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are having under aged children. Cancer is detected progressively earlier than before and cancer treatment is becoming more effective. This creates an even larger group of patients with cancer as a chronic disease, but with a very unpredictable course. Children in a family with a parent affected by cancer are known to be severely affected in psycho-social domains and they may also present many somatic symptoms. Young adults who experienced death by cancer in one of the parents during childhood or adolescents are at increased risk of depression and anxiety in adulthood. Parents affected by cancer face many challenges. They worry about treatment and prognosis, the patient is often dealing with severe side effects from treatment, there may be fear of death, spousal differences in coping with the situation AND worrying about the impact of the disease on their children and how to inform and involve them in the different phases of the disease, treatment and controls.
The analysis is in progress but initial findings show that parents are often left alone with their doubts and questions about their children's needs and how to inform them. It is difficult for the parents to evaluate the impact on the disease in their children and teenagers pose a specific challenge. The parents may disagree in their evaluation of the child's wellbeing and needs. Parents often requested another familiar adult person to talk to the child, but this was very often not the case.
The GP and the nursing staff in the hospital were rarely involved in the children and how to support them, and many parents experienced also some kind of withdrawal from friends and parents of children's peers.
A qualitative interview study with parents and 8-15 years old children in families where a parent was diagnosed with cancer more than a year ago. The material includes interviews with parents in ten families where a parent has cancer.
A phenomenological approach is adapted and a theoretical frame of mentalization and family dynamic is integrated in the analysis.
Conclusion: Parents experience significant parenting stress and uncertainty during the cancer experience and there is a need for family-based interventions as a supplement to the individual support that parents and children are offered. The GP could play a much more pro-active role in families where a cancer patient has under aged children.
Points for discussion: What knowledge and experience are lacking in general practice and how do we improve support to these families?