Absorbing information about a child's incurable cancer

Oncology. 2010;78(3-4):259-66. doi: 10.1159/000315732. Epub 2010 Jun 7.


Purpose: To assess parents' ability to absorb information that their child's cancer was incurable and to identify factors associated with parents' ability to absorb this information.

Patients and methods: An anonymous mail-in questionnaire study was performed as a population-based investigation in Sweden between August and October of 2001. 449 parents who lost a child to cancer 4-9 years earlier (response rate 80%) completed the survey. 191 (43%) of the bereaved parents were fathers and 251 (56%) were mothers.

Results: Sixty percent of parents (n = 258) reported that they were able to absorb the information that their child's illness was incurable. Parents were better able to absorb this information when the information was given in an appropriate manner (RR 1.6; CI 1.3-2.0), when they shared their problems with others during the child's illness course (RR 1.4; CI 1.1-1.8) and when they had no history of depression (RR 1.3; CI 1.0-1.8). Parents who reported that they were able to absorb the information were more likely to have expressed their farewells to the child in their desired manner (RR 1.3; CI 1.0-1.5).

Conclusions: Parents who received information that their child's illness was incurable in an appropriate manner are more likely to absorb that information. Whether or not parents are able to absorb the information that their child's cancer is incurable has implications in terms of preparation for the child's impending death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death
  • Bereavement
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Parents*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Terminal Care / methods
  • Truth Disclosure