Cancer-stricken children want the truth

September 21, 2015 by Elin Bäckström, Uppsala University

Children with cancer want honest but hopeful information. But giving appropriate information is difficult and improvements are needed for the sake of the child, the siblings and the parents. In a dissertation from Uppsala University, Li Jalmsell stresses the need for a family perspective and involvement at the end of the child's life.

Both and in care can improve the child's wellbeing at the end of life. But it is also good for the families. In her interviews with children with cancer, Jalmsell found that children want information about what is going to happen, bad news included. As long as it is presented in a hopeful way.

Li Jalmsell also analysed the results of a nationwide survey of families who have lost a child to cancer. She is able to show that parents who talked to their children about death found it meaningful and they often had those conversations on the child's own initiative. The children often used simple things like fairy tales as starting points for questions and talks about what was going to happen. Li Jalmsell believes that there are some things that paediatric oncology wards could do to help families talk:

'Stocking the shelves with a few books and films that depict death is one example. Making them available for those who want to talk but not pushing the theme on those who are not ready to talk about death' , says Li Jalmsell.

Li Jalmsell found a correlation between how parents experienced the suffering of their dying child and their own psychological well-being. How parents felt was also related to whether their child had died despite intense and difficult treatments like . Siblings wished they had more information at the end of their brother's or sister's life. They felt they weren't prepared for the loss. She also found a higher prevalence of anxiety in that hadn't talked to anyone about what to expect when their brother or sister was dying.

'When you are caring for children who are ill – perhaps even dying – it is important to extend your focus to include the whole family. Siblings and are also affected. Not only by the fact that a is about to die, but also by the well-being and 'ill-being' of their son or daughter, brother or sister' says Li Jalmsell.

Li Jalmsell also looked at of children who have died from cancer. Even though most children in that study were considered beyond cure when they died, their medical records show that the end was already near when the doctor's recognized this fact. This leaves precious little time to discuss how to spend the last days.

"I think we need more focus on palliative values in the care for these children. I hope for better communication, symptom relief and family involvement in paediatric oncology in the future. That would help both the and their families", says Li Jalmsell.

Explore further: Parents' comparisons make siblings different

More information: Read the thesis,"Towards Good Palliation for Children with Cancer: Recognizing the Family and the Value of Communication"

Related Stories

Parents' comparisons make siblings different

June 17, 2015
hey grow up in the same home, eat the same food, share the same genes (and sometimes the same jeans), but somehow siblings are often no more similar than complete strangers.

Parents of child cancer patients prefer honesty, study finds

May 18, 2015
(HealthDay)—It's better for doctors to be open with parents about their child's cancer prognosis, even if the news is bad, researchers say.

Children experience differing changes one year after a sibling's death from cancer

November 16, 2011
The majority of children experience personal changes and changes in relationships one year after their sibling has died from cancer; however, positive and negative changes are not universal. These are the findings from the ...

Couples needing sperm donation favor the same donor for all conceptions

June 16, 2015
Despite a prevalence of anonymous sperm donation in European countries, the use of the same sperm donor for subsequent conceptions is of paramount importance to those couples needing sperm donation to have children. "We found ...

How terminally ill kids and their parents can plan for a better death

November 5, 2014
The diagnosis of a palliative illness in a child or adolescent is devastating for all involved: parents, family members and the children themselves, as they grieve for life they had planned and believed they would have. The ...

Researcher on a new study that found controlling parents 'harm future mental health'

September 7, 2015
Dr Claire Hill, clinical psychologist specialising in parenting and child anxiety, says study shows role of fathers should not be ignored when assessing psychological problems in children.

Recommended for you

Fusion hybrids: A newly discovered population of tumor cells

September 24, 2018
In a recent study published in Science Advances, Charles E. Gast and co-workers detail the spontaneous process of cancer cell fusion with white blood cells to produce heterogenous hybrid clones in multiple biological systems, ...

Cancer cells evade immunotherapy by hiding telltale marker, suggesting how to stop relapse

September 24, 2018
Harnessing the immune system to treat cancer shows great promise in some patients, but for many, the response does not last long-term. In an effort to find out why, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists are using ...

In zebrafish, a way to find new cancer therapies, targeting tumor modulators

September 21, 2018
The lab of Leonard Zon, MD, at Boston Children's Hospital has long been interested in making blood stem cells in quantity for therapeutic purposes. Looking for a way to test for their presence in zebrafish, their go-to research ...

What can salad dressing tell us about cancer? Think oil and vinegar

September 20, 2018
Researchers led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have identified another way the process that causes oil to form droplets in water may contribute to solid tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer. The ...

Novel biomarker found in ovarian cancer patients can predict response to therapy

September 20, 2018
Despite months of aggressive treatment involving surgery and chemotherapy, about 85 percent of women with high-grade wide-spread ovarian cancer will have a recurrence of their disease. This leads to further treatment, but ...

Testing fluorescent tracers used to help surgeons determine edges of breast cancer tumors

September 20, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions in The Netherlands and China has conducted a test of fluorescent tracers meant to aid surgeons performing tumor removal in breast cancer patients. In their paper published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.