Talking to families about children's cancer

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Health professionals who treat children with cancer become deeply involved with the child’s family, which requires great skill and sensitivity. It’s important that health professionals are aware of the family’s situation – for example, whether they need to travel a long way for appointments, what their support networks are like, whether they need culturally specific information – and are sensitive to these issues throughout the family’s cancer journey.

Parents, in particular, are the main support for the child concerned and need to have clear information about what cancer their child has, its prognosis, any tests required and the treatment. Siblings and other family members also need clear information.

Many parents, other members of the family and friends will turn to the internet for information, and other sections of this website include information prepared specifically for them. However, some may not want to do this or be able to do this. Either way, it is important to talk things through with them and answer their questions in a simple and honest way.

It is also good to be able to give families additional information according to their needs. Additional information you could give to families includes:

CanTeen has published a research-to-practice paper on how to support young family members of people with cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology regularly publishes essays by physicians about the most difficult conversations doctors have with their patients. The art of oncology is a collation of these essays.

published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015