PURPOSE: Intensive therapies in pediatric malignancies increased survival rates but also occurrence of treatment-related morbidities. Therefore, supportive care fulfills an increasingly important role. In planning development of guidelines with incorporation of shared decision making, we noticed that little is known about the needs and preferences of patients and their parents. Our goals were therefore to investigate (1) which supportive care topics patients and parents regard as most important and (2) the preferred role they wish to fulfill in decision making.
METHODS: This qualitative study consisted of three focus groups (two traditional, one online) with patients and parents of two Dutch pediatric oncology centers. Data were transcribed as simple verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Eleven adolescent patients and 18 parents shared detailed views on various aspects of supportive care. Themes of major importance were communication between patient and physician (commitment, accessibility, proactive attitude of physicians), well-timed provision of information, and the suitability and accessibility of psychosocial care. In contrast to prioritized supportive care topics by medical professionals, somatic issues (e.g., febrile neutropenia) were infrequently addressed. Patients and parents preferred to be actively involved in decision making in selected topics, such as choice of analgesics and anti-emetics, but not in, e.g., choice of antibiotics.
CONCLUSIONS: Children with cancer and parents were provided a valuable insight into their views regarding supportive care and shared decision making. These results have important implications towards improving supportive care, both in selecting topics for guideline development and incorporating preferences of patients and parents herein.