Parenting concerns contribute significantly to the psychological distress of mothers with late-stage cancer, according to a new study.

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, 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, which appear 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,” says Eliza M. Park, an assistant professor in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine psychiatry department and medicine department.

“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,” Park says.

Mayra Rodriguez
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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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