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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Eliza M Park, MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, 170 Manning Drive, Campus Box #7305, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, Phone: 919-966-3494, Fax: 919-966-6735, leeza_park@med.unc.edu.

The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge the patients who participated in this study and who gave their time to share their experience.

We also thank Sarah Frances Nemeroff, Alonso Saldana, and Marcia Alvarez for their assistance with subject recruitment, Kathleen Knafl, PhD for manuscript review, and Paul Mihas, MA for his assistance with interview guide development.

The Author(s) declare that there is no conflict of interest.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the North Carolina University Cancer Research Fund, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, through Grant Award Numbers 1UL1TR001111 and 1KL2TR001109.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Health Care Sciences & Services
  • Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
  • Medicine, General & Internal
  • General & Internal Medicine
  • Parents
  • parenting
  • cancer
  • neoplasm
  • CARE

Parenting While Living with Advanced Cancer: A Qualitative Study


Journal Title:

Medycyna Paliatywna / Palliative Medicine


Volume 31, Number 3


, Pages 231-238

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Patients with advanced cancer who have dependent children are an important population with a life-limiting illness and high levels of psychological distress. Few studies have addressed the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer and their potential palliative needs. Aim: To describe the experience of living with advanced cancer as a parent, including illness experience, parental concerns, and treatment decision making and to explore whether these experiences differ by their functional status. Design: We conducted a cross-sectional, qualitative study using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Setting and participants: A total of 42 participants with metastatic cancer and with at least one child under the age of 18 years were recruited from a comprehensive cancer center. 25 participants were rated as having high functional status (the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Status Scale = 0-1) and 17 with low functional status (ECOG=2-4). Results: We identified four themes regarding the experience of being a parent with advanced cancer: (1) parental concerns about the impact of their illness and death on their children, (2) "missing out" and losses of parental role and responsibilities, (3) maintaining parental responsibilities despite life-limiting illness, and (4) parental identity influencing decision making about treatment. Parental functional status influenced not only physical responsibilities but also intensified parenting psychological concerns. Conclusion: Parents with metastatic cancer may have unique palliative care needs as they experience parenting concerns while managing the psychological and physical demands of advanced cancer.

Copyright information:

© The Author(s) 2016.

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