BACKGROUND: Siblings of pediatric cancer patients have a higher risk of developing emotional, behavioral, and social problems. However, little is known about specific experiences of this population in the first time after diagnosis.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the experiences of siblings of pediatric cancer patients in different areas of life in the first half-year after the cancer diagnosis.
METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 7 siblings of pediatric cancer patients (ages 11-18 years). Siblings were asked about their experiences in the hospital, in school, in their family, with peers, and with the ill child. Content analysis was used to derive important themes from the interviews.
RESULTS: Twenty-three categories of siblings' experiences were identified from the data.
CONCLUSIONS: In all areas of life, siblings reported difficulties, such as absence of parents, dealing with the ill child's or other patients' suffering and appearance, or impaired school achievement. But the siblings also mentioned important resources such as peer relationship, helpful coping strategies, and increased family cohesion.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The results of the present study lead to a list of important topics in different areas of life that might be helpful for healthcare professionals to have in mind when meeting with siblings of cancer patients. Integration of these findings should serve to improve sibling support and develop standardized sibling interventions.