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The effect of childhood cancer on Hong Kong Chinese families at different stages of the disease

Publication year
Yin, L. K.; Twinn, S.

In Hong Kong the incidence of cancer is 144.3 per 1,000,000 children and is the first cause of disease-related death among children aged between 1 and 14 years. The diagnosis of cancer in a child poses a threat to the family unit, with many families experiencing difficulties as they cope with the demands of their child’s illness. The purpose of this descriptive study was to explore the effects of cancer on the child, parents, and siblings during different stages of the disease. An in-depth individual interview was undertaken with 13 Chinese parents, 10 children, and 11 well siblings. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data identified 5 key areas including knowledge and understanding of the nature of the disease, being truthful, responses to the disease, changing family relationships, and changes in family life. This article focuses on the findings of 2 of these key areas: knowledge and understanding of the nature of the disease and being truthful. The findings indicate that all parents were fully aware of the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of their child’s disease. The child’s knowledge of the disease varied, depending in part on parents’ willingness to tell their children about the disease and its prognosis. Most parents were reluctant to share information about the disease with their children. Children, however, were found to have considerably more knowledge about the disease than parents reported, indicating a gap in communication between parents and children. The findings indicate the importance of disclosure about the disease within the family and the need for practitioners to facilitate information sharing among family members within this population group.

Research abstracts