Parents need help in explaining cancer to children say researchers

In collaboration with the Press Association

Children may have a far greater awareness of cancer than adults assume, say researchers who have conducted a small-scale study on parents with recently diagnosed cancer.

But parents' inability to discuss the disease openly with their children may encourage their fears, said the Oxford researchers.

The study found that even before parents are diagnosed, children often have a high awareness of cancer, picked up from soap operas, health campaigns and celebrities.

"This clearly demonstrates the fears and misunderstandings that children can have if they don't feel able to ask questions and have things explained to them," said Martin Ledwick of Cancer Research UK's nurse information line.

"We sometimes take calls from cancer patients who have difficulty finding the right words and the courage to talk things through with their children.

"Our nurses can talk these issues through with them. We also have a section on our website which gives useful information about talking to children about cancer," he added.

Although the importance of communication with children has been recognised, little research has been done into the field.

The researchers have recommended greater study of the problem and for further work in developing materials suitable for educating children about cancer.

For advice on talking to children about cancer, visit our patient information website, CancerHelp UK