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Chinese Children's Experience When the Mother Has Breast Cancer

Voices From Mothers and Children

Huang, Xiaoyan, PhD; Lee, Susan, PhD; Hu, Yan, PhD; Gao, Hongyun, MD, PhD; O'Connor, Margaret, DN

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000695
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Background A large number of women with breast cancer may have children younger than 18 years. When the mother has breast cancer, children may experience various concerns.

Objective The aim of this study was to explore Chinese children's experience when confronted with maternal breast cancer from the perspectives of both children and their mothers.

Methods Forty mothers with breast cancer were interviewed individually to talk about the experience of their children. In addition, 8 children aged 8 to 18 years were interviewed directly to share their experience, and 6 of them drew pictures to express their feelings.

Results Six themes were identified: “They were discussing it”—being informed of maternal breast cancer; “What about me if my mother dies?”—children's feelings and concerns; “Grandmother took care of me”—impact on daily life; “Mother did not smile anymore”—impact on mother and family; “I am happy to help”—pleasing their mother; and “I did not tell others”—hiding emotions.

Conclusions When their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Chinese children experienced various negative feelings, although their daily life was not profoundly affected because of grandparents' help. However, children's concerns may be underestimated by their mothers. Fathers and grandparents also played an important role in the interactions with children.

Implications for Practice Mothers in China need to understand their children's reactions in order to help them cope with the illness. Children's experiences should be further explored. The understanding of children from the perspectives of fathers and grandparents also requires further research.

Author Affiliations: School of Nursing, Fudan University, Shanghai, China (Drs Huang and Hu) School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Frankston, Australia (Drs Huang, Lee, and O'Connor); and Psychological Medicine Department, Children's Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, China (Dr Gao).

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Xiaoyan Huang, PhD, School of Nursing, Fudan University, 305 Fenglin Road, Shanghai, China 200032 (azs969@163.com).

Accepted for publication November 9, 2018.

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