As oncologists, we unfortunately find ourselves caring for patients who have young children. The majority of our time is spent focusing on the medical, psychological and emotional concerns and issues of the patient, and we often overlook the fact that there are also young children that are affected by the dramatic changes happening in their mom or dad’s life. Did you know that nearly 3 million children, in the U.S., are living with a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer? It may not be surprising to learn that multiple studies have shown that the children of cancer patients can be so seriously affected by the impact of cancer on their parent that they can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and a variety of other psychoemotional problems.
To help these patients and their loved ones better cope with the serious challenges of being a parent with cancer, I started looking for resources. One of the best I could find was the excellent series of guides from the American Cancer Society. If you know anyone who might find these helpful, please pass this information along:
- DEALING WITH DIAGNOSIS(Families with young children or teens may be concerned about how children will react to a diagnosis of cancer in a family member. Here we discuss how to help children understand and deal with a parent or close family member’s cancer diagnosis.)
- DEALING WITH TREATMENT (Explaining cancer treatment to children can be a tough job, especially when you are already trying to deal with your own feelings and emotions. What you tell your children depends on many things, like their ages, personalities, and what you know about the treatment.)
- DEALING WITH RECURRENCE OR PROGRESSIVE ILLNESS(For a person with cancer, one of the hardest things to go through is when the cancer keeps growing during treatment or comes back after treatment. It is hard for their loved ones, too, including children and teens. Here we will try to help you understand what your children might be thinking and feeling, and share some ideas on how you may be able to help them through this time.)
- UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT SERVICES(Cancer can affect the entire family — both adults and children — in many ways. Psychosocial support includes mental health counseling, education, group support, and many other such services. These services are usually provided by different types of mental health professionals. Here you can learn more about the psychosocial support services that may be available to you and your family.)
- DEALING WITH A PARENT’S TERMINAL ILLNESS (All parents want to protect their children from the pain that life can bring. As hard as it might be to think about what children need during a terminal illness, we hope your burden will be eased in some way by taking steps to help them prepare and cope.)
- WHEN A CHILD HAS LOST A PARENT (Children of all ages go through grief, sadness, and despair after the loss of a parent to cancer, even though the process might look different from that in adults. This short guide is offered to help you get started looking into deeper and ongoing resources to help a child who has lost a parent.)