OBJECTIVE: The loss of a parent to cancer is considered one of the most traumatic events a teenager can experience. Studies have shown that teenagers, from the time of diagnosis, are already extremely worried about the consequences of a parent's cancer but tend to be left to manage these concerns on their own. The present study aimed to explore young adults' advice to healthcare professionals on how to support teenagers who are losing a parent to cancer.
METHODS: This work derives from a Swedish nationwide survey and employs a qualitative approach with a descriptive/interpretive design to obtain answers to an open-ended question concerning advice to healthcare professionals. Of the 851 eligible young adults who had lost a parent to cancer when they were 13-16 years of age within the previous 6 to 9 years, 622 participated in our survey (response rate = 73%). Of these 622 young adults, 481 responded to the open-ended question about what advice to give healthcare professionals.
RESULTS: Four themes emerged: (1) to be seen and acknowledged; (2) to understand and prepare for illness, treatment, and the impending death; (3) to spend time with the ill parent, and (4) to receive support tailored to the individual teenager's needs.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: This nationwide study contributes hands-on suggestions to healthcare staff regarding attitudes, communication, and support from the perspective of young adults who, in their teenage years, lost a parent to cancer. Teenagers may feel better supported during a parent's illness if healthcare professionals take this manageable advice forward into practice and see each teenager as individuals; explain the disease, its treatments, and consequences; encourage teenagers to spend time with their ill parent; and recommend sources of support.