Children Diagnosed With Cancer: Dealing With Diagnosis

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When a child has cancer, it’s a crisis for the whole family.

The diagnosis of cancer in a child or teen is a devastating blow to the parents, siblings, and others who love the child. Cancer creates an instant crisis in the life of each family member. Normal daily life stops. Parents must be away from work. Siblings might need to be cared for by relatives or neighbors. The ill child (the patient) becomes the major focus of family time and attention. All other concerns are put on hold. Parents should be given detailed information about the diagnosis and treatment. They will have to make tough decisions and must understand enough about the treatment plan to feel OK giving permission for tests and procedures. They have to sign consent forms for treatments and make important choices about what’s right for their child. This is a lot to ask of them.

To add to the stress, all of this happens in a very short time. In the first days and weeks after diagnosis, parents who have been through it describe feeling as if they are on an emotional roller coaster, or in a bad dream. Just about all parents going through this difficult time seem to have the same feelings. But what parents actually say or do to express these feelings differs. How they handle their emotions is colored by their own life experiences, cultural differences, and their personal coping styles when faced with major stress.

Last Medical Review: 06/29/2012
Last Revised: 06/29/2012