Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Pediatric Supportive Care (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Families

When a child has cancer, all members of the family are affected.

Parents feel great distress when their child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Over time, the level of distress may lessen. Each family is affected in its own way, and different members of the family will react in different ways.

Recommended Related to Cancer

To Learn More About Caregiving

For more information from the National Cancer Institute about caregiving, see the Coping with Cancer: Supportive and Palliative Care page of the NCI Web site.

Read the To Learn More About Caregiving article > >

Certain factors may increase the family's level of distress:

  • The cancer patient is at a young age when diagnosed.
  • The cancer treatments last for a long period of time.
  • The child with cancer dies.

The entire family must adjust to changes in normal routine as the parents cope with the child's treatment, look for information, and try to also take care of the brothers and sisters. The parents' attention is focused on the child with cancer.

Brothers and sisters of the cancer patient need help to cope with their feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and fear. Brothers and sisters who are bone marrow (stem cell) donors for the cancer patient may have anxiety. Siblings who are not bone marrow donors may have school-related problems.

Although stress -related symptoms are common in siblings of childhood cancer patients, they sometimes report that their experience has made them more compassionate and that the cancer experience has brought their family closer together.

Social support can help decrease the family's distress.

Parents who are working and who have support from family, friends, and the health care team usually have lower levels of distress and feel more positive about their child's experience. Social support programs, such as support groups and summer camps, help brothers and sisters cope with the illness more easily.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: September 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    A common one in both men and women.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Do you know the symptoms?
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article