Acute Emotional Effects of Malignancy and Treatment

The immediate response to a diagnosis of cancer varies considerably based on the age and cognitive developmental level of the child. Younger children will not understand the meanings of the terms used but will quickly grasp that the doctors are very seri ous and that their parents are very frightened or angry. The parents' emotional response will be a key predictor of the child's emotional response (Kazak and Baxt 2007). Adolescents are able to understand much more of what the diagnosis could mean but will have different specific concerns than their parents or medical teams (Decker 2006). A review of studies of social support for adolescent cancer survivors found that the patients found social support from parents (particularly mothers) to be most helpful and voiced dissatisfaction about the social support from friends (Decker 2007).

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a technical report that outlines guidelines on communicating distressing information to children and families (Levetown 2008). Parents like doctors to give them prognostic information, even when it is upsetting (Mack et al. 2006). Parents tend to be overly optimistic about the chance of cure, even when they have a realistic understanding of the other risks and outcomes of cancer and cancer treatment (Mack et al. 2007).

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