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Communication in Cancer Care (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 03/06/2013

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The Role of Parents



Children with cancer need information that is right for their age.

Studies show that children with cancer want to know about their illness and how it will be treated. The amount of information a child wants depends in part on his or her age. Most children worry about how their illness and treatment will affect their daily lives and the people around them. Studies also show that children have less doubt and fear when they are given information about their illness, even if it is bad news.

There are many ways for parents to communicate with their child.

When a child is seriously ill, parents may find that communication is better when they:

  • Talk with the doctor at the beginning of cancer care about open communication with their child and other family members. Parents should discuss how the family feels about sharing medical information with their child, and talk about any concerns they have.
  • Talk with their child and share information throughout the course of the illness.
  • Find out what their child already knows and wants to know about the illness. This will help clear up any confusion their child may have about the medical facts.
  • Explain medical information according to what is right for their child’s age and needs.
  • Are sensitive to their child’s emotions and reactions.
  • Encourage their child by promising they will be there to listen to and protect him or her.

See the PDQ summary on Pediatric Supportive Care for more information about helping children with cancer.