To provide an overview of quantitative data on the impact of cancer on the mental health of patients parenting minor children. We focused on mental health outcomes, their levels and prevalence, and applied measurement tools.
MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycInfo and Web of Science were searched up to March 2021. We included quantitative studies, published in a peer-reviewed journal and reporting outcomes on the mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety) of cancer patients parenting minor children (≤ 21 years). Study quality was assessed based on the National Institute for Health assessment tool for observational studies. This study is registered on PROSPERO (CRD42019141954).
A total of 54 articles based on 36 different studies were included in this systematic review. Studies differ markedly regarding study and sample characteristics (e.g., outcome measures, sample size, parental health status). Depression and anxiety levels range from normal to abnormal, according to applied measurement tools. 7%–83% of parents with cancer have depression scores indicating probable depression and 19%–88% have anxiety scores indicating anxiety disorder.
This review reveals the dimension of mental burden affecting cancer patients parenting minor children. To identify, address and timely treat potentially arising mental health problems and support needs, affected parents should be closely monitored by healthcare professionals and referred to specialized support offers, if necessary. In the context of a comprehensive patient- and family-oriented care, it is highly relevant to integrate mental health (including parental) issues routinely into oncological care by proactively asking for the patient's psychosocial situation and the family status.