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Information for Scientists

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For many children and young adults, the experience a parent being diagnosed with cancer is both threatening and difficult to understand. Parents also often feel overwhelmed by the situation and are unsure as to whether and how to address the issue with their children.

The German Cancer Aid has set itself the goal of advancing and developing psychosocial service programs for cancer patients’ children, and securing their long-term establishment in Germany’s health care system. In order to do this, it is supporting a nationwide program with bases in Hamburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Heidelberg and Magdeburg. To date, underage children have rarely been involved in psychosocial care concepts for adult cancer patients, and prevention programs have seen little development. Consequently, two essential perspectives require expansion: adult cancer patients with children need to be perceived and addressed in their function as parents, and existing care concepts need to include a specific child-centered perspective.

In future, parents need to be supported in speaking with their children about cancer, and what it means for their family, in an open and anxiety-free way. Furthermore, their children, who are involuntarily exposed to the diverse stress factors of parental illness, also need to receive age-adequate services. They need age-adequate information and support from adults, e.g. encouragement to ask questions.

In addition to clinical care in all five locations, the network project also aims to identify characteristics that indicate when providing family support is sensible, as blanket coverage of all underage cancer patient children is neither reasonable nor realistic. How to identify risk cases and constellations, even before children show psychological problems? What characteristics indicate that a family is successfully coping with stress? All partner centers, each with an individual focus of their own, will closely cooperate in the development of model implementation strategies for a broader care strategy. This will also involve network-wide testing of the (already clinically tested and published) Hamburg COSIP Counseling Concept for effectiveness. In addition, a manual for dealing with specific situations that occur in the field of practice will be compiled in network collaboration. The current project phase is initially planned for three years, at the end of which preliminary practice guidelines for the quality-assured psychosocial support of cancer patients’ children will be provided to the professional community.