Help for kids affected by cancer

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
A lack of communication with children who have cancer in the family can lead to more distress because the child fears the worst, according to a recent study by The Cancer Council of New South Wales.

“When a parent is diagnosed with cancer they are often unsure what to tell their children or how to tell them,” said Gillian Batt, Director of Cancer Information and Support Services at Cancer Council NSW.

“Our investigations have shown that families need guidance in communicating about cancer so we’re pleased to launch two new telegroup counselling services – for families affected by cancer across regional NSW.”

“Children between the ages of 10 and 18 throughout NSW will be able to talk to other children of a similar age and in a similar situation, and parents will also be able to share information with other parents with cancer who are concerned about how their family is coping,” said Ms Batt.

According to Professor Stewart Dunn, Director of the Pam McLean Cancer Communications Centre, studies from overseas have shown that the stress levels of children who have a parent with cancer reflects the severity of their parents illness.

“Evidence suggests that children who are not told what is happening may suffer the same or a higher level of anxiety than the parent with cancer,” said Professor Dunn.

The Communicating with Children about Cancer project is being welcomed by health professionals and GPs around NSW – many who have seen first hand the effect a parent’s cancer can have on children.

“The second phase of this project is to develop a written guide that doctors can give to their patients to help them communicate with their children about cancer – we believe this initiative is an Australian first,” said Professor Dunn.

Families wanting to take advantage of the telegroup counselling services can call 02 9334 1755.

For more information about Telegroup Counselling, or any of the Cancer Council’s support and information services, visit or call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20.

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