Contrary to traditional belief, researchers now say that having a child with cancer did not appear to impact parents' risk of separation or divorce or affect future family planning.
Childhood cancer can cause feelings of fear and uncertainty among parents and burden them with many practical challenges related to caregiving and work-related obligations, according to the study published in the journal Cancer.
For the findings, the research team from the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre examined data from several registries in Denmark, linking information on parents of children diagnosed with cancer in 1982-2014 (7,066 children and 12,418 case parents) with parents of children without cancer (69,993 children and 125,014 comparison parents).
Parents were followed until 10 years after diagnosis, separation or divorce, death, emigration, or the end of 2017, whichever came first.
Overall, parents of children with cancer had a four per cent lower risk of separation and an eight per cent lower risk of divorce compared with parents of children without cancer.
Among parents of children with cancer, those who were younger had less education, and were unemployed had elevated risks for separation and divorce.
The findings showed that risks were also higher among parents of children diagnosed at a younger age.
The investigators also evaluated how the diagnosis of cancer in a child affects parents' decisions on having another child.
They expected that parents of a child with cancer would have fewer children than parents of children without cancer and that they would postpone having another child.
This was not the case, however, as the researchers found that the childhood cancer experience did not negatively affect parents' future family planning in Denmark.
The researchers noted that health care providers should communicate these reassuring and encouraging findings to parents, but that support should be offered if needed to improve family life in the long term.