Parenting while living with advanced cancer: A qualitative study.


Journal Article

BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced cancer who have dependent children are an important population with a life-limiting illness and high levels of psychological distress. Few studies have addressed the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer and their potential palliative needs. AIM: To describe the experience of living with advanced cancer as a parent, including illness experience, parental concerns, and treatment decision making and to explore whether these experiences differ by their functional status. DESIGN: We conducted a cross-sectional, qualitative study using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: A total of 42 participants with metastatic cancer and with at least one child under the age of 18 years were recruited from a comprehensive cancer center. 25 participants were rated as having high functional status (the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Status Scale = 0-1) and 17 with low functional status (ECOG=2-4). RESULTS: We identified four themes regarding the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer: (1) parental concerns about the impact of their illness and death on their children, (2) "missing out" and losses of parental role and responsibilities, (3) maintaining parental responsibilities despite life-limiting illness, and (4) parental identity influencing decision making about treatment. Parental functional status influenced not only physical responsibilities but also intensified parenting psychological concerns. CONCLUSION: Parents with metastatic cancer may have unique palliative care needs as they experience parenting concerns while managing the psychological and physical demands of advanced cancer.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Park, EM; Check, DK; Song, M-K; Reeder-Hayes, KE; Hanson, LC; Yopp, JM; Rosenstein, DL; Mayer, DK

Published Date

  • March 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 31 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 231 - 238

PubMed ID

  • 27484674

Pubmed Central ID

  • 27484674

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1477-030X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0269216316661686


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England