Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

How DCIS affects families

Some women with DCIS thought that the diagnosis was possibly more shocking and disturbing for their close family and friends than it was for themselves. One thought that it could be worse for her best friend because ‘it’s happening to someone you care about, it’s worse because you feel helpless and you’re worried. And you think they’re going to be ill. They’re going to be in pain. They’re going to die.’

Often, women thought that the experience of having DCIS had brought their family closer together. One felt that her sons listen to one another more now and several said that their husbands had been very understanding and considerate. One woman said that her husband was ‘obviously trying to be strong for me, trying to give me confidence and help’.
 
A younger woman with DCIS said that her husband had taken over a lot of the childcare in the weeks after the diagnosis when she was anxious and not sleeping at all well. She knows that he was also very worried about her but that he somehow managed to block it out and get on with what he needed to do.
Effects on children
 
Mothers were often very concerned about how to tell their children about their diagnosis and treatment (see Telling other people). One woman suggested that it is important to show that you are doing okay so that the children are reassured.
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Children’s behaviour could change in predictable – and less predictable – ways.
 
Younger children could be really upset to see their mother in hospital – especially if it was soon after surgery and she was still on a drip. One woman’s son had initially seemed to react well to the news but became upset when he saw her in hospital.
 
Children of all ages are likely to have heard of other people who had had cancer and this, inevitably, colours their view of their mother’s diagnosis. Celebrities with cancer and plot lines in soap operas also raise awareness about the disease among children. Parents might not always know that their child is aware of cancer but even quite young children know the word and are sometimes very fearful of its implications.
 
One woman’s 15-year-old daughter became very upset and asked ‘Are you going to die?’ Her daughter wouldn’t look her in the eye and she thought that she was frightened because ‘as far as she knew cancer meant death’.
One woman said her grown son did not ask her any questions about her illness but had a friend whose mother had invasive breast cancer and so knew that his mother was ‘getting off reasonably lightly’.

Last reviewed July 2017.

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