Medical Animation: Testicular Cancer
Talking to Children About Testicular Cancer
The first rule is honesty: Tell the child a loved one has cancer. Lying or misleading will backfire, and that won't help anyone during this critical time in your family's lives.
By Lynn Yoffee
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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When a family faces the crisis of a testicular cancer diagnosis, adults worry how the children will react. Some are inclined to keep it a secret. But children are often more aware that something's going on than adults might think. And if a child learns from an outsider that a family member has cancer, that can open a can of worms in terms of trust between parents and children. The American Cancer Society and other experts encourage an open dialogue with children when a family member is diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Keeping the news about testicular cancer a secret could make a child feel separated or isolated, even though you're just trying to shield him from this stress. And when the treatment starts, your child can't help but notice time away in the hospital, and side effects from radiation or chemotherapy such as vomiting, tiredness, or hair loss. Your child will be fearful and may assume the family member is going to die. Preparing your child for what's to come is a way of providing coping skills in advance.
Testicular Cancer: Talking About It
But what exactly should you say? All children should know the name of the diagnosed cancer, what part of the body it affects, the planned treatment, and what it will all mean to the family's day-to-day lives. But beyond that, your child's age is important in deciding the level of detail to discuss. The American Cancer Society advises that children up to the age of 8 don't need lots of details, but older kids do need more information. Try these steps as you prepare to discuss testicular cancer with a child:
If both the adult explaining testicular cancer and the child listening shed some tears, that's fine. Be sure to communicate that cancer is a serious disease, but testicular cancer is far from hopeless. Depending on a child's level of maturity, he may be upset, misbehave, blame himself, be quiet, or exhibit new types of behaviors.
Testicular Cancer: Explaining Death to a Child
If your child asks if the family member with testicular cancer will die, don't avoid the question. Answer honestly by explaining that this type of cancer isn't hard to treat and that the doctors don't expect that to happen, but that there is indeed a small chance.
If your family member does die from testicular cancer, again, be honest about it. Don't say that he "went away" or another vague explanation. Provide reassurance, show affection, say it's okay to talk about it, and don't hide your own feelings.
Testicular Cancer: Signs a Child Isn’t Coping
You'll know your child is having a hard time coping and needs help from a counselor if he shows any of the following behavioral signs for more than a week or two:
- Becomes isolated and withdrawn
- Behaves extremely differently
- Can't concentrate
- Can't be soothed or comforted
- Can't handle the sad feelings and is sad most of the time
- Can't sleep
- Gets mad quickly
- Can’t maintain grades at school
- Loses energy and has no appetite or eats too much
- Mentions thoughts of suicide
- Shows little interest in any activity
- Cries a lot
When a family member faces testicular cancer, or even death, the best way to help a child cope is with honesty, plenty of talk, and support.
Video: Self-Exam for Testicular Cancer
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