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Information central for parenting with breast cancer.

How to Break the News

An initial conversation for younger kids…

Mom: I want to tell you about something my doctor told me. He found a lump on my breast. Almost always lumps are okay. Remember the lump you got on your knee when you fell off your bike? That was okay. But this lump is different. It’s called cancer. This is a lump that shouldn’t be there. My doctor is going to take it out.

Child: How?

Mom: She makes a tiny cut where the lump is. Then she takes it out and sews up the cut she made. She puts a bandage over it. A lot like the bandage we put on your knee.

Child: Will it hurt?

Mom: It won’t hurt because the doctor will give me medicine to make me fall asleep when he takes the lump out. Afterwards it will probably be sore. You might have to give me extra gentle hugs for a few days. But you can give me lots of kisses, too. What do you think about that?

Child: That’s okay. I can be really gentle!

A follow-up conversation with younger children…

Mom: Remember I told you about the lump in my breast called cancer? Remember I told you that the doctor is going to take it out? Well, he’s going to do that the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a regular day. But the next day, Daddy and I will go to the hospital after we take you to preschool. Grandma will pick you up and take you to her house when school is over. You’ll have dinner there, too. How does that sound?

Child: That sounds okay. Are you going to be alright?

Mom: I’ll be just fine. And so will you!

Example for older kids:

Mom: I want to talk about something important. My doctor found a lump on my breast. He did some tests, and it turns out to be cancer. Do you know what cancer is?

Child: Isn’t that what Aunt Mary had?

Mom: Yes, Aunt Mary died from lung cancer. Lung cancer is very hard to treat, and Aunt Mary was already very sick when the doctor found it. That’s why she died. This is different. There are a lot of ways doctors can treat breast cancer. Plus, my doctor found my cancer very early.

Child: This sounds really bad! Couldn’t you die, too?

Mom: Some people do die from breast cancer, but my doctor says I’ll be fine. Let me tell you all the things that my doctor is going to do to make sure that I’m okay. First, he’s going to take the lump out of my breast. Then, a few weeks after that, he’s going to start giving me chemotherapy. Do you know what that is?

Child: No.

Mom: It’s very strong medicine that will make sure I won’t have cancer anywhere else in my body. It’s very interesting how that works, and we can talk more about that later. After chemotherapy, another doctor will give me radiation. That’s when the doctor uses x-rays on my breast where the cancer was. This makes sure there’s no cancer left in my breast. And then, there’s even more they can do. There’s medicine I can take to keep the cancer from ever coming back.

Child: That all sounds scary.

Mom: It’s a lot of stuff, but I’m very lucky they have so many ways to keep me healthy.

Child: I don’t know. I still think it sounds kind of bad.

Mom: I know. I was pretty scared at first, too. But I know many women who have had this happen to them, and they’re alright now. If I had to get cancer, this is a good kind to get. There are so many ways to keep me healthy.

Child: I guess so…

Mom: You know what? We’ll get through it. We’ll all be okay. Why don’t we go for a walk together. We’ll talk some more about it later if you want. How does that sound?

Child: Alright.