BACKGROUND: Cancer patients and their minor children have been shown to experience psychological distress. The objectives of the current study were to 1) describe the need for and use of psychosocial support and 2) determine predictors of family-centered support use in patients with minor children.
METHODS: A population-based sample of 1809 patients was recruited via 2 cancer registries. The eligibility criteria were age 25 years to 55 years, an initial diagnosis received no longer than 6 years before this survey, and having at least 1 minor child. Medical characteristics and self-report measures were used.
RESULTS: Overall, approximately 38% cases were identified as being borderline or probable anxiety cases and 16% were identified as being borderline or probable depression cases. Since diagnosis, 44% of the patients had used psychosocial support and 9% had received family-focused and child-focused support. These patients perceived a lower quality of life and poorer family functioning. Approximately 73% of patients with children wanted information concerning or psychosocial services to support their children or parenting. Use of family-centered support was not found to be predicted by disease-related factors (eg, cancer staging) but rather by subjective needs (eg, mental health and having a distressed child in the family).
CONCLUSIONS: The results of the current study emphasize the importance of child and parenting concerns in psychosocial care in oncology. Screenings for children and appropriate training programs for health care may increase awareness of this issue.