Parents’ experience of pediatric cancer: A qualitative study




Cancer, Qualitative Research, Parents, Diagnosis


BACKGROUND: Suffering from life-threatening diseases such as cancer, due to its impact on the patients and their next of kin causes myriads of changes in the structure and function of the family. The objective of this study was to clarify parents' experiences of childhood cancer.

METHODS: This qualitative study was conducted through purposive sampling method. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 parents whose children were diagnosed with cancer in the oncology department of Besat Hospital in Sanandaj City, Iran. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed through Benner’s thematic analysis.

RESULTS: During data analysis, 4 main themes emerged including destroyer and terminator of life, horror and hope, disturbance of normal life, and gaining valuable experience.

CONCLUSION: Parental roles, routine care of a child with cancer, and facing multiple treatments and childcare problems threatened parents' compliance with the condition of the disease or treatment, and thus, parents sought social support. Therefore, more attention should be paid to the parents’ probable reaction and different life dimensions. To make healthcare more effective, providing necessary psychological, mental, and emotional support and increasing parental hope is necessary. Parents of a child with cancer should be assisted in preventing some healthcare problems and coping with their child’s illness.


Papastavrou E, Charalambous A, Tsangari H. Exploring the other side of cancer care: The informal caregiver. Eur J Oncol Nurs 2009; 13(2): 128-36.

Rubira do Espķrito Santo EA, Munhoz Gaķva MA, Espinosa MM, BarbosaI DA, Silva Belasco AG. Taking care of children with cancer: Evaluation of the caregivers' burden and quality of life. Rev Latino-Am Enfermagem 2011; 19(3): 515-22.

Mousavi SM, Pourfeizi A, Dastgiri S. Childhood cancer in Iran. J Pediatr Hematol Oncol 2010; 32(5): 376-82.

Kaatsch P. Epidemiology of childhood cancer. Cancer Treat Rev 2010; 36(4): 277-85.

Mehranfar M, Younesi J, Banihashem A. Effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms in mothers of children with cancer. Iran J Cancer Prev 2012; 5(1): 1-9.

Swallow VM, Jacoby A. Mothers' evolving relationships with doctors and nurses during the chronic childhood illness trajectory. J Adv Nurs 2001; 36(6): 755-64.

Litzelman K, Catrine K, Gangnon R, Witt WP. Quality of life among parents of children with cancer or brain tumors: The impact of child characteristics and parental psychosocial factors. Qual Life Res 2011; 20(8): 1261-9.

Ozer ZC, Firat MZ, Bektas HA. Confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis of the caregiver quality of life index-cancer with Turkish samples. Qual Life Res 2009; 18(7): 913-21.

Tamayo GJ, Broxson A, Munsell M, Cohen MZ. Caring for the caregiver. Oncol Nurs Forum 2010; 37(1): E50-E57.

Turkoglu N, Kilic D. Effects of care burdens of caregivers of cancer patients on their quality of life. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2012; 13(8): 4141-5.

Hacialioglu N, Ozer N, Yilmaz Karabulutlu E, Erdem N, Erci B. The quality of life of family caregivers of cancer patients in the east of Turkey. Eur J Oncol Nurs 2010; 14(3): 211-7.

Lim JW, Zebrack B. Caring for family members with chronic physical illness: A critical review of caregiver literature. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2004; 2: 50.

Borneman T, Chu DZ, Wagman L, Ferrell B, Juarez G, McCahill LE, et al. Concerns of family caregivers of patients with cancer facing palliative surgery for advanced malignancies. Oncol Nurs Forum 2003; 30(6): 997-1005.

Syse A, Larsen IK, Tretli S. Does cancer in a child affect parents' employment and earnings? A population-based study. Cancer Epidemiol 2011; 35(3): 298-305.

Hadi N, Moezi M, Ettehadi H. Case-control study on risk factors of acute leukemia in below fifteen-year-old children in Shiraz 2002. Daneshvar Medicine 2007; 14(67): 57-65. [In Persian].

Khanjari S, Seyedfatemi N, Borji S, Haghani H. Effect of Coping Skills Training on Quality of Life among Parents of Children with Leukemia. Hayat 2014; 19(4): 15-25. [In Persian].

Jadidi R, Hekmatpou D, Eghbali A, Memari F. The experiences of parents of children with leukemia: A qualitative research. J Arak Univ Med Sci 2013; 15(9): 28-40. [In Persian].

Speziale HS, Streubert HJ, Carpenter DR. Qualitative research in nursing: Advancing the humanistic imperative. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011.

Houser J. Nursing research: Reading, using, and creating evidence. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2008.

Grosklags K. Post-traumatic stress disorder after a cancer diagnosis [Online]. [cited 2018]; Available from: URL:

Benner P. Interpretive Phenomenology: Embodiment, Caring, and Ethics in Health and Illness. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications; 1994.

Streubert HJ, Streubert Speziale HJ, Speziale HS, Carpenter DR. Qualitative research in nursing: advancing the humanistic imperative. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003.

Fletcher PC. My child has cancer: finding the silver lining in every mother's nightmare. Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs 2011; 34(1): 40-55.

Bjork M, Wiebe T, Hallstrom I. An everyday struggle-Swedish families' lived experiences during a child's cancer treatment. J Pediatr Nurs 2009; 24(5): 423-32.

Neil L, Clarke S. Learning to live with childhood cancer: A literature review of the parental perspective. Int J Palliat Nurs 2010; 16(3): 110, 112-0, 119.

Yeh CH. Dynamic coping behaviors and process of parental response to child's cancer. Appl Nurs Res 2003; 16(4): 245-55.

Zetumer S, Young I, Shear MK, Skritskaya N, Lebowitz B, Simon N, et al. The impact of losing a child on the clinical presentation of complicated grief. J Affect Disord 2015; 170: 15-21.

Fortune MM, Abugideiri SE, Dratch M. A commentary on religion and domestic violence. Domestic violence: Intersectionality and culturally competent practice 2010; 318.

Flavelle SC. Experience of an adolescent living with and dying of cancer. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2011; 165(1): 28-32.

Snyder CR, Irving L, Anderson JR. Hope and health: Measuring the will and ways. In: Snyder CR, Forsyth DR, Editors. Handbook of social and clinical psychology: The health perspective. New York, NY: Pergamon Press; 1991. p. 285-305.

Salarifar M. Family in the view of Islam and psychology. Tehran, Iran: Samt; 2012. [In Persian].

Tartaro J, Luecken LJ, Gunn HE. Exploring heart and soul: Effects of religiosity/spirituality and gender on blood pressure and cortisol stress responses. J Health Psychol 2005; 10(6): 753-66.

Kars MC, Duijnstee MS, Pool A, van Delden JJ, Grypdonck MH. Being there: Parenting the child with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. J Clin Nurs 2008; 17(12): 1553-62.

Miedema B, Easley J, Fortin P, Hamilton R, Mathews M. The economic impact on families when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Curr Oncol 2008; 15(4): 173-8.

Abu-Saad HH. Pediatric palliative care. State of the art. Le Journal medical libanais The Lebanese medical journal 2008; 56(2): 86-92.

da Silva FM, Jacob E, Nascimento LC. Impact of childhood cancer on parents' relationships: An integrative review. J Nurs Scholarsh 2010; 42(3): 250-61.

Doumit MA, Huijer HA, Kelley JH, Nassar N. The lived experience of Lebanese family caregivers of cancer patients. Cancer Nurs 2008; 31(4): E36-E42.

Cohen PN. Recession and divorce in the United States, 2008-2011. Population research and policy review 2014; 33(5): 615-28.

Brown RT, Wiener L, Kupst MJ, Brennan T, Behrman R, Compas BE, et al. Single parents of children with chronic illness: An understudied phenomenon. J Pediatr Psychol 2008; 33(4): 408-21.

Behrman RE, Field MJ. When children die: Improving palliative and end-of-life care for children and their families. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press; 2003.

Tong A, Lowe A, Sainsbury P, Craig JC. Experiences of parents who have children with chronic kidney disease: A systematic review of qualitative studies. Pediatrics 2008; 121(2): 349-60.

Owens JL, Hanson SJ, McArthur JA, Mikhailov TA. The need for evidence based nutritional guidelines for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients: Acute and long-term following treatment. Nutrients 2013; 5(11): 4333-46.




How to Cite

Moridi G, Valiee S, Fathi M, Nikbakht-Nasrabadi A, Khaledi S. Parents’ experience of pediatric cancer: A qualitative study. Chron Dis J. 2018;6(4):214–224.



Original Article(s)