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WHAT HELPS SIBLINGS COPE
The National Cancer Institute considers the definition of survivor to encompass the entire family. So it stands to reason that if one looks at survivor research, there would be information on the impact a brain tumor diagnosis has on siblings. Not only while their brother or sister are in treatment, but throughout life. Their role may be forever impacted. They may be forced to grow up quicker, to have additional responsibilities at home, to “be nicer and more understanding” to their sibling and to sacrifice the limelight and one-to-one quality time with their parents more frequently. They have to deal with feelings of anger, jealousy, fear, and sadness and frequently deal with this alone. Yet there is little research on the impact this has and less research on clinical or family interventions which may aid in this adjustment.
A recent study in Oncology Nurse Advisor looked at a two session intervention with the well sibling during the first two months after their sibling was diagnosed. They found that providing additional information and support during this time eased the stress. While one study shows siblings of long-term childhood cancer survivors are psychologically healthy in general. There are, however, small subgroups of siblings at risk for long-term psychological impairment who may benefit from preventive risk-reduction strategies during childhood while their sibling with cancer is undergoing treatment.
While CBTF attempts to build family programs, we acknowledge that the development of sibling programs lags behind. There are programs such as Super Sibs and camps specifically for siblings (Camp Mak-a-Dream), but there is a need for more support especially with brain tumor siblings. This group of siblings may face extra stress because of the changes a brain tumor may cause which last throughout life. In the next couple of months, we are going to open an area in our online community, Jenna’s Corner, specifically for siblings. We are also exploring funding opportunities for sibling programs. If you are a sibling, let us know what helped you at different times and what programs you would like to see.
Buchbinder, D., Casillas, J. Krull, K.R., Goodman, P, Leisenring, W., Recklitis, C.,….Zeltzer, L. (2010). Psychological outcomes of siblings of cancer survivors: A report from the childhood cancer survivor study. Psychooncology, 20, 1259-1268.