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Parenting while living with advanced cancer: A qualitative study


 

Each month, one article from Palliative Medicine, the EAPC's official research journal, is selected as 'Editor's choice' and the author invited to contribute a short post to the EAPC blog explaining the background to the full article in the journal. This month's 'Editor's choice' is described below with access to the free PDF version.  (You can also read the blog post version here)

Abstract

Background: Patients with advanced cancer who have dependent children are an important population with a life-limiting illness and high levels of psychological distress. Few studies have addressed the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer and their potential palliative needs.

Aim: To describe the experience of living with advanced cancer as a parent, including illness experience, parental concerns, and treatment decision making and to explore whether these experiences differ by their functional status.

Design: We conducted a cross-sectional, qualitative study using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Setting and participants: A total of 42 participants with metastatic cancer and with at least one child under the age of 18 years were recruited from a comprehensive cancer center. 25 participants were rated as having high functional status (the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Status Scale = 0–1) and 17 with low functional status (ECOG=2–4).

Results: We identified four themes regarding the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer: (1) parental concerns about the impact of their illness and death on their children, (2) “missing out” and losses of parental role and responsibilities, (3) maintaining parental responsibilities despite life-limiting illness, and (4) parental identity influencing decision making about treatment. Parental functional status influenced not only physical responsibilities but also intensified parenting psychological concerns.

Conclusion: Parents with metastatic cancer may have unique palliative care needs as they experience parenting concerns while managing the psychological and physical demands of advanced cancer.

Keywords
Parents, parenting, cancer, neoplasm

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Written By: Eliza M Park, Devon K Check, Mi-Kyung Song, Katherine E Reeder-Hayes, Laura C Hanson, Justin M Yopp, Donald L Rosenstein and Deborah K Mayer
Published: 08-03-2017


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Parenting while living with advanced cancer: A qualitative study
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