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How can I prepare my kids for my skin cancer surgery?

If you have an upcoming skin cancer procedure, you probably have a lot on your mind. If you are a parent, one of those things might be how your kids will react to your surgery – after all, any bandages, bleeding, swelling or scarring may be scary for young children.

All kids are different and, as their parent, you are the best person to gauge their potential reactions. Some children will want to know all the details while others might be frightened by what they see as a very daunting life event.

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If you bring up the surgery to your children, you might like to avoid the word ‘cancer’. Try to be honest and candid about your treatment. Give all the essential information they need to know, but don’t delve into too much detail; you don’t want to overwhelm them, further scare them, or give information that is too much for them to understand.

It’s also important to give them some realistic expectations about how you might look after the surgery. You might have some bandages, bleeding and swelling, and the wound might look distorted and scary. You might have limited mobility (depending on the treatment area) or not be able to perform your regular tasks like walking them to school or playing in the backyard for a period of time.

Tell your children about your procedure with enough notice that they don’t feel surprised or blindsided, but not too far in advance, as this might build up anxiety and fear.

You might start by mentioning that you have a spot on your body that the doctor is going to remove for you so it doesn’t get any bigger. You might tell them how many stitches you’ll get and describe the great big bandage you get to wear for a while.

Some kids will be okay with seeing the wound and others will react poorly. You might show them an image online before they see the real thing, so they get a sense of what to expect without it being too personal.

You might also let them feel involved in your recovery - like they are helping you to get better - by bringing them with you to the chemist for medication or to choose a bandage.

You can reassure your kids that while the procedure is serious and important, you’ll be okay; about 99 per cent of skin cancers are curable when detected early, and skin cancer is very common in Australia.

If your wound heals and you are left with a scar, you can use it as a reminder to your kids that the sun can do harmful things if you don’t protect yourself, but now you have taken care of the problem and you are okay.

 

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Written by National Skin Cancer Centres