- Question from Doris: What is the best way to break the cancer news to the children? Are there good analogies for young children? (i.e., it's like an alien has entered my body and is doing damage?)
- Answers - Joan Hermann It's very much dependent on the age. The family should be together when this conversation happens. The mom needs to say that the doctors have told her that she has cancer in her breast and she can point to the part of her body where that is, and say, "I'll be taking treatments to get rid of this thing that shouldn't be in my body." Then, explain what the treatments are going to be, what the side effects will be, and how the child's world is going to change at least temporarily.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. I would tend not to use an alien description because they may fear that the alien could enter everyone else's body, and the idea of a monster inside Mommy is very scary.
- Joan Hermann The other thing, regardless of the age, is that nobody can catch cancer from somebody else, and a lot of times doctors can't really tell people why somebody has gotten cancer.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. Just after a breast cancer is diagnosed, the adult should avoid whispering together anywhere near the children. The children become very uncomfortable and worried that something terrible is wrong, that something much worse is happening.
- Joan Hermann Children need to know that their parents will be straight and honest with them. "I'm telling you all that I know right now. If anything changes, I promise I will tell you."
On Wednesday, August 16, 2000, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Kids and Mom's Breast Cancer. Joan Hermann, L.S.W. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about talking to your kids about breast cancer.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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