Cancer affects everyone; it does not distinguish between age, race, gender or social background. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it does not only affect the child, but also the family system as a whole. The focus of this study was on the psychosocial aspects that are affected in the family system once a child diagnosed with cancer. These psychosocial aspects included the emotional impact, the spousal impact, the role changes that occur in the family system, the financial impact, the impact on siblings as well as the impact on religion and spirituality. These aspects were investigated by the researcher during the applied study.
This applied study used a qualitative approach with a collective case study research design. The research population of this study included families who have a child diagnosed with cancer, who was treated at Nicus Lodge Cancer Treatment Centre in Pretoria which is a CANSA affiliate. The staff at Nicus Lodge selected participants who met the criteria based on purposive sampling, on behalf of the researcher. The researcher used semi-structured interviews and an interview schedule in order to obtain the participants’ experiences of their child diagnosed with cancer and the psychosocial effects it had on them as a family system. Nine participants participated in the study. The interviews were recorded with the permission of the participants and then later transcribed. Creswell’s steps for qualitative data analysis were implemented. By utilizing these measures and tools, the researcher was able to formulate findings from which conclusions and recommendations could be made. From the findings, the following themes and sub-themes were identified, demonstrating the psychosocial effect that a child diagnosed with cancer has on the family system and answering the research question: Theme 1: Protective measures with the sub-themes of religion, support structures and personality. Theme 2: Restrictive measures with the sub-themes of role changes, single parent, multiple children and date of diagnosis. Theme 3: Financial related aspects with the sub-themes of employment/unemployment, supportive employer, transport and medical aid. The findings demonstrated that many different aspects of a family system are affected when a child is diagnosed with cancer. It also demonstrated that a family system that had the necessary protective measures, were able to cope more effectively and maintain their quality of life when their child was diagnosed with cancer. The findings furthermore showed specific focus areas that a social worker in the health care setting, specifically in the oncology field, should focus on which hinder family systems from coping effectively. These focus areas enable the social workers to provide adequate supportive services to the families of a child diagnosed with cancer.
Supportive services are imperative when dealing with a family of a child diagnosed with cancer, and this is one of the recommendations of the study and a focus area for future studies. Recommendations from this study can be used by social workers in the health care field to better understand the challenges that families of a child diagnosed with cancer experience and how to effectively address their needs. Social workers can also utilize the recommendations to find ways to make their services known to the communities and improve their intervention and supportive services to these families. It is important for social workers to improve awareness in the community and to provide them with the necessary resources to cope better with the situation. To better understand this paper, certain key terms were used by the researcher.