Towards Good Palliation for Children with Cancer Recognizing the Family and the Value of Communication

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Sammanfattning: Pediatric cancer imposes a threat on the child’s life and approximately every fifth child diagnosed with cancer will die due to his or her disease. The overall aim of this thesis was to explore palliative care of children with cancer and bereaved family members. The thesis includes data collected retrospectively from medical records, a nationwide questionnaire directed to bereaved parents, a nationwide questionnaire for bereaved siblings and individual interviews with children in cancer care.Most children dying from cancer were recognized as being beyond cure at time of death; for some this recognition occurred close to death, leaving little time for potential personal preferences (Paper I). Bereaved parents and siblings noticed extensive suffering in the child close to death (Paper II, VI), with physical fatigue being the most commonly reported symptom irrespectively of age and diagnosis of the child (Paper II). Bereaved parents’ psychological well-being appears to be closely related to experiencing suffering in the dying child (Paper III) but also to high-intensity treatment (with bone marrow transplant as the example) of a child that still dies from his or her disease (Paper IV). Bereaved siblings experience a lack in information at the end of their brother’s or sister’s life and report feeling poorly prepared for the loss. An increased risk of anxiety was seen in siblings whom nobody talked to about what to expect at the time of death of their brother or sister (Paper VI). When caring for children with cancer it is vital to take the individual child’s awareness and preferences regarding information into consideration. Bereaved parents who have communicated with their child about death expressed that this often occurred at the child’s own initiative (Paper V) and simple means such as fairy tales could be used to facilitate communication. Ill children themselves expressed in interviews wanting honest, but still hopeful information regarding bad news (Paper VII).The results of this thesis stress the importance of striving to achieve good communication and keeping a family perspective throughout care of children with cancer.