Parenthood Impacts Treatment Decisions in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer

The leading cause of non-accidental death for people aged 35-54 years is cancer.1 Approximately 24% of US adults who have cancer are also parents who have dependent children.1 A diagnosis of cancer in a parent has profound ramifications on the family. Routines become disrupted, the family experiences a change in income, and family roles become re-organized.1 With advanced incurable cancer, the affected parent’s symptom burden, family functioning during illness and after death, and end-of-life concerns are additional concerns for the family.1 Having children and advanced cancer leads to higher levels of depression and anxiety than for patients with advanced cancer who do not have dependent children, but little is known about these parents’ experiences with parenting when coping with increasing symptom burden.1 Studies have found that having a strong support system and the importance of family can have an impact on treatment decisions. However, few studies have examined the impact that having children and grandchildren can have on treatment decisions on patients with metastatic breast cancer.

To gain better understanding, a qualitative study was conducted to analyze how being a parent or grandparent influences women with metastatic breast cancer treatment-making decisions. A qualitative sub-analysis was done on a purposive diverse sample of 13 women with metastatic breast cancer. The participants were interviewed to elicit patient values on treatment making decisions, and medical provider-patient communication. Children and grandchildren impacted treatment decisions and were critical to the patient’s cancer care for 5 participants. Looking sick in front of their children was a concern for participants who stated their children were their top priority, while women who stated their grandchildren were a top priority and being able to watch them grow up was their primary treatment decision motivator. For women who stated quality of life and side effects were important, their children were either too young to provide support or provided supportive care or assisted with activities of daily living.


Tomczik K, Coombs, L. Who’s gonna take care of my babies? The impact of children on treatment decisions for women with metastatic breast cancer. A qualitative analysis. Abstract # PO2-11-11.


  1. Park EM, Check DK, Song MK, et al. Parenting while living with advanced cancer: A qualitative study. Palliat Med. 2017;31(3):231-238.

Related Items

Conference Correspondent Coverage is Brought to You by the Publishers of:
Journal of Hematology Oncology Pharmacy
Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship
Oncology Practice Management

Learn more about our family of publications.

View Our Publications