Researchers have found that the accepted belief that parents of children with cancer are impacted with marital troubles such as the risk of divorce or separation or any effect on future family planning, may be far from the truth.
According to the study published in the journal Cancer, the disease during childhood can lead to fears and uncertainty among parents and add to their burden through many practical challenges linked to work-related obligations and caregiving.
Analyzing Risks Among Different Groups
For the findings, the research team from the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre examined data from several registries in Denmark, linking information on parents of children diagnosed with cancer in 1982-2014 (7,066 children and 12,418 case parents) with parents of children without cancer (69,993 children and 125,014 comparison parents).
Parents were followed until 10 years after diagnosis, separation or divorce, death, emigration, or the end of 2017, whichever came first. Overall, parents of children with cancer had a four percent lower risk of separation and an eight percent lower risk of divorce compared with parents of children without cancer.
Among parents of children with cancer, those who were younger had less education, and were unemployed had elevated risks for separation and divorce. The findings showed that risks were also higher among parents of children diagnosed at a younger age.
Communication From Healthcare Providers Essential
The investigators also evaluated how the diagnosis of cancer in a child affects parents' decisions on having another child. They expected that parents of a child with cancer would have fewer children than parents of children without cancer and that they would postpone having another child.
This was not the case, however, as the researchers found that the childhood cancer experience did not negatively affect parents' future family planning in Denmark. The researchers noted that health care providers should communicate these reassuring and encouraging findings to parents, but that support should be offered if needed to improve family life in the long term.
(With inputs from agencies)