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UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital
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Curiosity

When talking to your children about your breast cancer diagnosis, most children will be very curious about your surgery and what your breast or chest looks like afterward. If, when and how you choose to show your children your breast is highly individual and may depend on the age and sex of your child and how comfortable you feel about showing them. Usually, however, what they imagine is far worse than the reality.
 
Young Children
 
The time to address questions with small children is when they ask them. Try to make comparisons with their past experiences:
  • For example, the incision can be compared to cuts that they have had on their fingers or knees. This may not seem as a valid comparison to you but to them little cuts on their bodies are very important. Assure them that cut edges will grow back together again.
     
  • When they ask about drains and drainage, show how the fluid goes down the tube and then to the bulb. After it gets to the bulb, you measure it and throw it out. It is a way to get rid of the extra fluid that you don't need. It is good to get rid of it.
     
  • When they ask, "Where did your breast or lump go?" You may want to say they kept it at the hospital to learn more about your lump. Assure them that you are fine without it, you don't need it anymore.

Older Children

 

If your children are older, you can pick a time that is more suitable to you and when you perceive they are ready to handle it. Very early after surgery (especially mastectomy) may not always be the best time, first because you may not be ready and are unadjusted to its appearance, second, because it looks worse with drains in, and third, the early drainage is bloody and the sight of blood is often scary and/or repulsive to school age children.

 

If you show it to them early, then be sure to show it again when the drains are out and it is healing. If you feel uncomfortable showing your own breast to your son or daughter, you may want to show him/her a picture or diagram from a book.

 

Don't be surprised, however, if someday your son or daughter sneaks a peek by coming into your bedroom when you are dressing to ask a question which could have easily waited. Just act natural. Don't get angry and don't be too quick to cover up (let them get their peek). Their timing was probably not an accident.