Research conducted by Canteen, in collaboration with the University of Sydney, found that 57% of young people (12-24 years) who have a brother or sister with cancer have high to very high levels of psychological distress* compared with 9% of young people (aged 16-24 years) in the general population**. Young people who have a brother or sister with cancer can experience a range of different feelings, such as anger, guilt, resentment, isolation, fear, worry, sadness, distress, and anxiety. While most siblings will cope well, siblings of cancer patients are at increased risk of social, emotional and behavioural problems.
“I needed… something to get this anger out [that] would help.”– Bereaved Sibling Member
“Seeing my brother in treatment was hard- I felt guilty in a way.”– Sibling Member
Young people whose brother or sister dies from cancer are also faced with the additional grief and loss of coping with the death of their brother or sister.
“There were times where I never thought that I would smile again, times where I thought my heart had been lost along with my sibling. I needed to laugh and be a teenager again.”– Bereaved Sibling Member
“I needed… my brother of course, but we can never have him back.”– Bereaved Sibling Member
Canteen’s research has identified that young people who have a brother or sister with cancer have needs in a number of areas***, including:
- Family issues
- Practical assistance
- ‘Time out’ and recreation
- Dealing with feelings
- Support from friends and other young people
Siblings of cancer patients have also reported positive aspects of their experience, such as increased family closeness and cohesion, a greater appreciation of life and an increased sense of maturity and independence.