Impact of maternal breast cancer on school-aged children in Saudi Arabia.
BACKGROUND: We examine whether mothers with breast cancer told their children about the diagnosis, explore mothers' perceptions of the impact of doing so on the mother-child relationship, and assess perceptions of how this affected the children. METHODS: A convenience sample of 28 women with breast cancer ages 35 to 60 was interviewed using a 39-item close-ended questionnaire at the Al-Amoudi Breast Cancer Center of Excellence, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Inclusion criteria were having a diagnosis of breast cancer and having school-aged children (ages 5 to 16 years). Questions were asked concerning each child (n = 99). RESULTS: The majority of women (75%) told their children about the diagnosis, and explained the treatment (61%). In most cases, telling the children had a positive effect on how the children treated their mothers (84%), on the maternal-child relationship (80%), and on the personality and behavior of the child (90%). The most common negative reaction by children was increased clinging behavior to the mother (15%). Despite the perceived positive impact on the mother-child relationship and on the child's overall behavior towards the mother, school performance suffered as a result (77%). CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary results suggest that when a mother with breast cancer tells a child about the diagnosis and discusses it with them, this often results in an improvement in the maternal-child relationship. However, the knowing the mother's diagnosis may adversely affect the child's school performance, which will need to be anticipated and addressed with formal counseling if it persists.
Al-Zaben, F; Al-Amoudi, SM; El-deek, BS; Koenig, HG
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