Children living with parental cancer are vulnerable to various forms of distress and developmental disruption. However, little ‘voice’ has been ascribed to patients’ children, particularly regarding current intervention efficacy, with much of the research focusing on parents’ perspectives.
To identify current interventions available for patients’ children and to summarise how children have responded to these.
Informed by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and Cochrane guidelines, a broad search strategy was conducted between 25 May 2015 and 6 August 2018. 7 databases were searched, including Medline, PsycInfo, ProQuest, Cochrane, CINAHL, Embase and Google Scholar. Grey literature was also vetted. An appraisal tool developed by Keim-Malpass and colleagues was used to assign a quality rating to papers.
Thirteen papers of varying design and quality which evaluated 8 interventions, were retained for analysis. Due to this heterogeneity, methods of narrative synthesis were employed to combine results. Five key themes were identified across qualitative outcomes, including reduced isolation, improved sense of normalcy, and enhanced communication. Quantitative results were less consistent. Results from a small number of studies suggested that current interventions can improve PTSD symptoms and depression. However, interventions are yet to demonstrate success at ameliorating other symptoms, particularly those of anxiety.
Our findings indicate a growing body of research that is yet to sufficiently meet the methodological rigour, theoretical guidance, and reporting quality necessary to confidently interpret research findings. Qualitative feedback suggests interventions are positively received by children, while quantitative results are yet to demonstrate efficacy. This review has highlighted the potential for further investigation regarding how children respond to their parent’s cancer, and the possibility of conceptualising this in a theoretical model.
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