Intervention Review

Interventions for improving communication with children and adolescents about a family member's cancer

  1. J Tim Scott1,*,
  2. Megan Prictor2,
  3. Mirjam Harmsen3,
  4. Alex Broom4,
  5. Vikki A Entwistle5,
  6. Amanda J Sowden6,
  7. Ian Watt7

Editorial Group: Cochrane Consumers and Communication Group

Published Online: 20 OCT 2003

Assessed as up-to-date: 26 FEB 2003

DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004511


How to Cite

Scott JT, Prictor M, Harmsen M, Broom A, Entwistle VA, Sowden AJ, Watt I. Interventions for improving communication with children and adolescents about a family member's cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD004511. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004511.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of St Andrews, School of Management, St Andrews, Fife, UK

  2. 2

    Australian Institute for Primary Care, La Trobe University, Cochrane Consumers and Communication Review Group, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

  3. 3

    Centre for Quality of Care Research (WOK), Nijmegen, Netherlands

  4. 4

    The University of Queensland, School of Social Science, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia

  5. 5

    University of Dundee, Social Dimensions of Health Institute, Dundee, UK

  6. 6

    University of York, NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, York, UK

  7. 7

    University of York, Department of Health Sciences, York, UK

*J Tim Scott, School of Management, University of St Andrews, The Gateway, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9SS, UK. jts1@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Publication History

  1. Publication Status: Edited (no change to conclusions)
  2. Published Online: 20 OCT 2003

SEARCH

 

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary

Background

A diagnosis of cancer creates multiple problems for affected families, including major changes in living patterns, roles and relationships. It has not been common practice for families and health practitioners to share information with children or adolescents about a family member's cancer, or to allow them to express their feelings about this. In recent years, however, researchers and practitioners have begun to recognise that children and adolescents might appreciate and benefit by being better informed about, and having more opportunity to communicate their responses to, cancer in the family.

Objectives

To examine the effects of different ways of enhancing communication with children and/or adolescents about a family member's cancer and its treatment.

Search methods

We searched the following sources: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), The Cochrane Library, Issue 1 2003; MEDLINE (1966 to January week 2 2003); EMBASE (1985 to 2003 week 6); CINAHL (1982 to February Week 1 2003); ERIC (1966 to 23 January 2003); PsycINFO (1985 to February week 1 2003).

For the original (1999, unpublished) version of this review we also searched the following databases: CancerLIT, Health Management Information Consortium, British Nursing Index, IAC Health & Wellness, JICSTE-Plus, Pascal, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, Mental Health Abstracts, AMED, HUMN, MANTIS and ASSIA. Bibliographies of identified studies were also checked and contact made with experts in the field.

Selection criteria

Randomised and non-randomised controlled trials, and controlled and uncontrolled before and after studies that evaluated the effects of interventions to enhance communication with children and/or adolescents about a family member's cancer and its treatment.

Data collection and analysis

Data on knowledge and understanding, coping, adjustment and wellbeing were extracted by one review author and checked by another review author. We assessed study quality using six criteria. We present a qualitative synthesis of the results.

Main results

Five studies satisfied the selection criteria: one non-randomised controlled before and after study, and four uncontrolled before and after studies. They differed in terms of the interventions evaluated and the outcomes measured. One study of a camping program and two studies of structured group interventions reported improvements in cancer-related knowledge. One out of two structured group intervention studies found significant reductions in psychological and social problems. The camping program study reported significant improvements in siblings' behaviour. One structured group intervention study reported significantly more positive mood states after the intervention. Another structured group intervention study reported significantly lower levels of anxiety after the intervention.

Authors' conclusions

Different methods of communicating with children and adolescents about a family member's cancer have not been widely evaluated in controlled trials. There is weak evidence to suggest that some interventions, such as structured group interventions, may lead to improvements in knowledge and understanding, in coping, anxiety, adjustment and wellbeing. More research is needed to investigate the comparative value of these interventions.

 

Plain language summary

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Plain language summary

Methods of communicating with children and adolescents about a family member's cancer

Communicating well with children and adolescents about a sibling's cancer can improve their knowledge and understanding as well as their coping, adjustment and wellbeing

It has not been common for families and health practitioners to share information with children or adolescents about a family member's cancer. Interventions to try to help young people cope with cancer in the family include printed information materials, counseling, education and support programs, sibling group programs and art, play and music therapy. The review found limited evidence of some interventions for children and adolescents about a sibling's cancer only. Structured group interventions and camping programs for healthy siblings improved knowledge and understanding about their sibling's cancer, and improved coping, adjustment and wellbeing. There was no evidence of harm.