Parents will be parents. Even when they are battling with advanced-stage cancer, concerns about their children can impact their emotional well-being and quality of life.
According to a recent study, women with advanced cancer’s mental and emotional health are significantly impacted by parenting-related worries. They discovered that a mother’s emotional health was closely related to whether she had spoken to her kids about her sickness and her worries about how it would affect their finances.
According to a study conducted by experts at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre, worries about parenting considerably contributed to the psychological discomfort of moms with late-stage cancer.
Mothers with incurable cancer can have increased rates of depression and anxiety
In the United States, cancer is the largest cause of disease-specific death among women of childbearing age, and women with children who have incurable illnesses may have higher rates of sadness and anxiety.
Researchers at UNC Lineberger conducted a survey of 224 moms who had advanced cancer to better understand how parenting concerns might affect this group’s quality of life. They discovered that parenting worries were almost as strongly connected with lower quality of life as reductions in regular physical performance. Researchers said the findings, which were published in the journal Cancer, indicate a need for increased assistance for moms who have metastatic cancer.
“As part of cancer care, we ask about patients’ functional status, and how they are responding to treatment, but we are not systematically asking how cancer impacts our patients as parents, yet we know being a parent is incredibly important to their identity and well-being,” said UNC Lineberger’s Eliza M. Park, MD, assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Department of Medicine. “Among women with metastatic cancer, their health-related quality of life is powerfully interlinked with their parenting concerns about the impact of their illness on their minor children. It appears to equally contribute to someone’s assessment of their quality of life as some of the clinical variables we routinely ask about.”
Emotional well-being significantly linked with communication with children
In this study, Park and her colleagues performed an online survey of women who had at least one kid under the age of 18 and stage IV solid tumour cancer, which has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. They discovered that, on average, mothers with metastatic cancer scored higher on depression and anxiety than the general American population. Additionally, their mental well-being scores were lower than those of all cancer-affected persons.
Researchers found a mother’s emotional health was strongly correlated with her communication with her children on her illness and her worries about how her illness would affect their finances.
Parenting concerns made up 39 percent of the difference in the quality-of-life scores
Parenting worries accounted for 39% of the difference in quality-of-life scores when Park and her coworkers considered additional factors that can contribute to a mother’s lower quality of life. Their quality-of-life score was affected by this virtually to the same extent as how much their sickness was limiting their capacity to perform daily duties.
“We found that parenting-related factors contributed to the amount of variation you see in quality of life almost equally as something like your functional status,” Park said.
Based on these findings, Park and her coworkers intend to investigate how to better support parents and address some of the worries that patients with children have.
“We’re working to develop interventions for parents with advanced cancer or another serious illness to help them and their families adjust to the changes that occur with the diagnosis,” Park said. “Part of the strategy may be helping them to learn how to communicate effectively with their other family members as well as their children, identifying future care planning needs if their illness gets worse, and providing education about how families can cope and promote resilience in their children.”
Materials provided by UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eliza M. Park, Allison M. Deal, Justin M. Yopp, Teresa Edwards, Samuel J. Resnick, Mi-Kyung Song, Zev M. Nakamura, Donald L. Rosenstein. Understanding health-related quality of life in adult women with metastatic cancer who have dependent children. Cancer, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.31330
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “For mothers with advanced cancer, parenting concerns affect emotional well-being.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180507074215.htm>.
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