8-year-old concerned about breast cancer?

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Question from Marg: I have an 8-year-old daughter who worries that she too will have breast cancer. My mother is a 7-year survivor and I just completed chemotherapy two months ago. We both had mastectomies and she also worries that she will have to have her breast removed.
Answers - Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP When there's a family history - a grandmother and a mother with breast cancer - it's normal for a child to ask questions. It's also pretty likely that you are worried about your daughter's risk. One of the best things you can do is reassure her that children do not get breast cancer. It's nothing she needs to worry about for herself now. Another thing that can be encouraging is to point out that the grownups have been taking good care of themselves and are getting well. Also let her know that the doctors are working on newer medicines and more ways to help women with breast cancer so it's not likely she will be affected by this. When she's older, there may be many other options to prevent and/or treat breast cancer.
Paula K. Rauch, M.D. It may also be helpful to think about how you might answer another concern or worry that your child expresses that would affect her in adulthood. For example: worrying about wanting to live at home when she's in college, or worrying that she won't find the perfect partner. Sometimes when parents think about similar future-oriented questions but ones that aren't about cancer, it helps them think about how they might want to answer a question about cancer that might affect the child in the distant future.
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP That's a wonderful point. So often women with breast cancer can be concerned with questions their kids have, or nightmares due to the breast cancer situation. Sometimes things are a reaction to the parent being ill, but sometimes other children of similar age are having similar anxieties and as Dr. Rauch suggested, it's not only about breast cancer. There are many other things children can worry about.
Paula K. Rauch, M.D. It's important that parents welcome their children's questions and worries so that a child isn't worrying alone. But at the same time, it may be important for the child to focus on current issues by reminding them that luckily they don't have to worry about breast cancer now, but it might be important to go to sleep on time because there's a spelling test tomorrow.
Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., FAACP Sometimes if there is cancer in the family, there can be a conception with children that it can be "caught" and it can be a good time to clarify for a child that it's not something you can catch from someone and that nobody caught it from someone else in the family.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Talking With Kids about Breast Cancer featured Paula Rauch, M.D. and Tamara Shulman, Ph.D., F.A.A.C.P. answering your questions about specific ways to support your kids while you undergo treatment, and different communication strategies for helping your kids to feel secure during a time of uncertainty.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in May 2006.

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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