Teens, especially older ones, are accustomed to having increased control and independence in their lives. Cancer largely robs them of this newly experienced freedom,, and may cause friction between the teen and his or her parents. Yet even if they are resistant to parental guidance, Dr. Carpentier says teens do need parental help to make decisions which impact their future and which may be especially difficult for a teen to consider, such as future fertility. This is particularly important as cancers which involve the male and female reproductive organs are among the most common in teen cancer diagnoses.
Dr. Carpentier advises parents to engage in clear, straight forward communication and include teens with cancer as important partners in their medical treatment. This includes providing teens with cancer with choices whenever possible in order to maintain some sense of independence and control during a difficult time period. As examples, Dr. Carpentier suggests consulting with the teen on decisions presented by the medical team to the family such as preferred time of day to receive chemotherapy or allowing the teen to decide whether to wear a hospital gown or something more creative. She says this provides teens with some sense of normalcy during what may otherwise be a particularly dependent stage in their lives.
In her study of 39 teens diagnosed with cancer, approximately 40 percent were involved in a dating relationship. While she didn't follow them long-term to see what happened to the relationship did it continue or did it disintegrate Dr. Carpentier did find that aspects of those dating relationships, such as level of support, conflict, and anxiety, were significantly related to teens' quality of life, distress, and engagement in healthy versus unhealthy behav
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