Cancer is the leading cause of disease-specific death for parenting-age women in the United States, and women with incurable cancer who have children can have increased rates of depression and anxiety. To better understand how parenting concerns might relate to the quality of life for this group, UNC Lineberger researchers surveyed 224 mothers with advanced cancer. They found that parenting concerns were significantly associated with lower quality of life - almost as much as declines in day-to-day physical functioning. The findings, published in the journal Cancer, point to a need for greater support for mothers with metastatic cancer, researchers say.
"As part of cancer care, we ask about patients' functional status, and how they are responding to treatment, but we are not systematically asking how cancer impacts our patients as parents, yet we know being a parent is incredibly important to their identity and well-being," said UNC Lineberger's Eliza M. Park, MD, assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Department of Medicine. "Among women with metastatic cancer, their health-related quality of life is powerfully interlinked with their parenting concerns about the impact of their illness on their minor children. It appears to equally contribute to someone's assessment of their quality of life as some of the clinical variables we routinely ask about."