Children need some information about the name of the cancer, where it is in the body and how it will be treated. Here are some examples of how you can explain cancer to young children:
- ‘I have a lump growing inside my body (explain which part) that shouldn’t be there. It’s called cancer and I’m going to have an operation to take it away. After that, the doctor will give me medicine so that the lump doesn’t come back.’
- ‘I have an illness called cancer. The doctor is giving me medicine to help me get better. The medicine might make me feel sick or tired some days, but other days I’ll feel fine.‘
- If your child asks you what cancer is – ‘Our bodies are made up of lots of tiny things called cells. They all have a different job to make our bodies work and keep us healthy. Cancer is when some cells in the body stop working properly and stop the healthy cells doing their jobs. The cancer cells can grow into a lump.’
Teenagers in particular may look for information about cancer on the internet. You or your doctor could help them understand whether the information they find is accurate and relevant to your diagnosis. They may find it helpful to visit the Macmillan website, Hope Support Services or Riprap. Riprap is a website for teenagers who have a parent with cancer.
Teenagers may know what cancer is from experience. They may have been taught about it at school or have a friend with cancer. Some of their friends may have family members who’ve had cancer. You could talk to them about what they know if you think that would help.