A caring society takes a holistic approach to looking after people and their families. Mental health can be a complex area for families to navigate. Here at Breast Cancer Research Centre – WA, we are developing breast cancer specific health services for patients and their families in the new centre opening July 2020. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women and the most common cause of cancer death in women. In Australia, 49% of newly diagnosed breast cancers occur in women under 60, with 23% of women under 50 at the time of diagnosis. It’s likely many of these women have children aged between 14-24 at the time of their diagnosis and during their treatment.
Our philosophy at BCRC-WA, that if we can better understand families’ needs during their cancer journey, we can better support them, was the motivation behind our offspring study. Our aim is always to do all we can to ensure patients have the greatest chance of recovery and support.
The study assessed the psychological needs and distress of offspring of both early and advanced breast cancer patients. It also analysed the demographic and cancer related factors that impact on levels of distress and unmet psychological needs of offspring.
It was found there was a significant number of offspring with high levels of distress, where distress tends to be greatest soon after diagnosis. Key findings of the study included:
- 31% of the offspring reported high distress
- 10% displayed severe distress, requiring immediate intervention
- Stage of diagnosis is significant in that the highest distress for offspring is soon after diagnosis and therefore personnel and programs to address this will be crucial
- Female offspring have higher rates of distress than male.
By defining the level of distress and unmet needs (and identifying factors associated with such increased distress and needs), BCRC-WA is better able to identify families struggling with the impact of a breast cancer diagnosis and tailor programs to address this currently unmet need.