Colorectal Cancer

Talking to children about bowel cancer

Decisions about whether to discuss a serious illness with others can be difficult. The need for support has to be weighed up against the desire for privacy. Sometimes people react to the news in a way that is unhelpful to the patient. Wanting to protect certain people from distress may also be a consideration. Some of the most difficult questions arise when talking to young children and teenagers about cancer. 

Parents of young children had to make difficult decisions about when and what to tell them about their illness. A woman whose son was only 3 when she had her treatment felt he was too young to understand what was happening. Nonetheless she prepared him for seeing her in hospital. Another woman whose children were 6 and 9, decided not to tell them what was wrong because their grandmother had died of cancer in the same hospital 3 months earlier. While she was trying to protect them she later regretted her decision. A man whose son was 9 at the time of his diagnosis decided to keep it from him because he feared the stigma this might bring. A woman with advanced cancer explains how she has prepared her children for the future.

People with teenage children often worried about the impact that their illness would have on their children's schooling and exams. A man with advanced cancer hoped he would stay alive until his daughter completed her GCSE's. A woman explains how she tried to minimise the disruption to her children's lives and why it was important that life went on as normal around her. A man with advanced cancer considers the impact that his diagnosis had on his two teenage daughters.

One woman has an adult son with a severe learning difficulties. Her family may also be affected by a rare genetic syndrome, which greatly increases the likelihood of developing bowel (colorectal) cancer. She explains how difficult it would be if her son needed to undergo screening.

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Last reviewed August 2016.

Last updated May 2010.


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