It’s common for different family members to experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, disbelief, anger, guilt and sadness.
Children diagnosed with cancer have many concerns and reactions that are different from those of an adult diagnosed with cancer. Many children-specific services are available in Australia -– please see these listed below.
In Western Australia, Perth Children’s Hospital specialises in coordinating care for children diagnosed with cancer. There is also a comprehensive support network that provides support and information.
For further information or support please contact our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support Line.
Organisations which provide information and support for children affected by cancer
Below is a list of organisations and websites that provide information and support for children, including those diagnosed with cancer, and their siblings. Some of these organisations also offer support to children who have a parent with cancer.
- CanTeen – offers meetings, camps, education seminars, online forums, outings and counselling for young people living with cancer. This includes cancer patients, siblings and offspring of adults with cancer. Canteen provides support services and programs for young people aged 12-25 affected by cancer.
- Camp Quality – provides camping and recreation opportunities for children with cancer (birth through to 13 years).
- Kids Helpline – is a free, confidential telephone, email and web counselling service for 5-25 years old.
- Make A Wish Foundation of Australia – grants wishes to children under 18 years who have a life-threatening illness.
- Ronald McDonald House in Perth – provides accommodation for families of children suffering from cancer-related diseases and other life-threatening illnesses, who are receiving treatment at the Perth Children’s Hospital.
- Starlight Foundation – grants wishes to chronically and terminally ill children.
- Redkite – offers support for children and young people with cancer up to 24 years, and their families, offering hospital and community based support, counselling, financial assistance and education services.
- School in Hospital – provides educational support for students whose physical or mental health prevents them from successfully participating in their own school programs. Support is available to both public and private school students.
- Leukaemia Foundation – provides personalised and practical support for children and their families living with a blood cancer diagnosis.
- Cancer Australia (Children’s cancer) – has an excellent range of information relating to children.
Adolescent and young adults
A diagnosis and treatment for cancer as a young person presents unique challenges. Parents, grandparents, siblings and peers will respond in different ways. For a confidential chat about your circumstances you can contact our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support Line.
Why is a cancer diagnosis for a young person so different?
As a young adult you may be developing your independence and want an active part in making decisions about your health and treatment. However a cancer diagnosis is a time when it can be helpful to have support from an older adult who can assist you to understand the consequences of decisions that you make.
The priorities and focus in your life may include things that are hard to juggle while going through treatment, like developing a social life and keeping up with friends, exploring your sexuality, big events like exams, school balls, birthday celebrations and going travelling. It can be hard to know how to keep things as normal as possible and difficult for those around you to know just how to help and support you best.
What services and support are available for young people with cancer in Western Australia?
There is now a growing range of services and information specifically for young people with cancer.
In Western Australia, there is a free state-wide service and a specialist nurse providing you or your family with support and information. They can also link you with appropriate services for your age group.
General websites for young adults
- Look Good…Feel Better – is a national program which helps people living with cancer to improve their appearances and self-esteem, by teaching beauty techniques to camouflage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.
- IVF Australia – a selection of helpful fertility information booklets can be found and options around fertility preservation discussed. Contact our 13 11 20 Information and Support Line for local services available.
- Ninox Cancer Support Crew – provides support for younger adults, in their 20’s & 30’s, with a cancer diagnosis living in WA.
- OnTrac@PeterMac – the Victorian Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Service are located at Australia’s only dedicated cancer hospital, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Their website contains information on fertility, sexuality, depression and other areas that you may find helpful. Please note this website is aimed at adolescents and young adults.
Sites for family and friends
- The Sydney Children’s Hospital and its Centre for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders provides coping information.
- For Friends is a booklet from CanTeen which provides information, practical tips, support and advice across a whole range of areas that impact on a young person who has someone in their family affected by cancer. It is written specifically for friends to help them know what to say and do to provide support to another young person who is going through an extremely difficult time.
- ReachOut Australia is an Australian website that exists to inspire young people to help themselves through tough times. The aim of ReachOut is to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing by building skills and providing information, support and referrals in a format that appeals to young people.
For further information or support please phone our 13 11 20 Information and Support Line.
Talking to your children about cancer
Cancer can have a profound impact on your life and your family. The prospect of telling your children you have cancer can feel very overwhelming.
The booklet Talking to Kids about Cancer aims to help initiate a discussion about cancer with children. This information is for anyone who needs to talk to a young person about an adult with cancer. We hope it’s a useful starting point for ideas on informing and reassuring young people who are directly affected by an adult’s cancer diagnosis. You can contact our 13 11 20 Information and Support Line if you would rather talk to someone about your circumstances and obtain advice and information tailored to you.
An additional helpful website for parents with a cancer diagnosis:
- Canteen – supporting and empowering young people living with cancer and their family. This is done by providing an Australia wide peer support network for 12-25 year olds.
International organisations and websites:
- The American Cancer Society – publishes information to help parents and children cope with cancer.
- Macmillian Cancer Support – a UK service that offers practical advice and support for cancer patients, their families and carers in talking to their children.
For further information or support please contact our 13 11 20 Information and Support Line.
Counselling can help a family to speak more openly and understand the concerns of the various members when a parent has cancer. It is important that the counsellor has experience in counselling children and families. We can link you to a counsellor with experience in counselling young children affected by cancer, as well as counsellors who have experience in family counselling and play therapists.
Canteen can also assist with counselling for 12-25 yr olds experiencing cancer in the family.
To speak to someone about your family’s needs and to arrange an appropriate referral, call our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support Line.
Support for parents with young children
Having a young family and a cancer diagnosis brings unique challenges. Research suggests that peer support at any age can be beneficial if provided in a supported and guided way. We know that finding opportunities for young children to meet other children in similar situations can be difficult.
Mummy’s Wish is available to support Australian families with children aged 12 years and under, through the provision of practical, immediate and non-means tested support whilst mothers are receiving treatment for cancer.
Please note that these activities are specifically aimed at families with children under 12. For support services for children aged 12 years or over, please click here to see services available from Canteen.
Who else can help?
- KIDSCOPE – assists children and families to understand the effects of cancer or chemotherapy on a loved one, provides suggestions for coping, and develops innovative programs and materials that communicate a message of hope to diverse families coping with this crisis.
- Kids Helpline (5 – 25 years old)- is a free phone counselling service for young people needing support.
- Riprap – is especially for 12-16 year olds who have a parent with cancer. It provides cancer information as well as personal stories.
- Lionheart Camp for Kids – is a bereavement program that supports grieving children aged 5 – 12 years old, as well as adolescents, following the death of a parent, primary caregiver or sibling.