8 February 2017

UCLH Cancer Collaborative has teamed up with the Fruit Fly Collective to launch a short animated film to advise parents with cancer on how to talk to their children about their diagnosis.

It is thought to be the first animated film of its kind and guides parents through discussing their cancer diagnosis with children of different ages, should they wish to.

By 2020, one in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. Many of these people will be parents of dependent children – in 2016 there were 7.6 million families with dependent children in the UK.

Explaining a cancer diagnosis to their child is one of the hardest things a parent can do. But with the right support, children are very good at coping and talking to each other as a family can really help children at this difficult time.

The animation uses a cartoon family to give practical tips on telling children you have cancer. Evidence shows that adults respond positively to messages that may be frightening, sensitive or confusing when the information behind the messages is created in a comic-book like format. The animation has also been made into a comic-book for parents, and flyers informing people about the film will be distributed throughout the NHS in the London Cancer area.

Dr Mark Barrington, chair of the London Cancer Psychosocial Expert Reference Group and a consultant clinical psychologist, said:

“It is so important that people diagnosed with cancer receive the right psychological, as well as medical, support. For parents, this can be an especially difficult time and sometimes people are unsure whether or not to tell their children about their diagnosis at all. We were delighted to work with the Fruit Fly Collective to produce the first film of its kind offering clear, practical advice.”

Caroline Leek, director of the Fruit Fly Collective, said:

“When creating this film, we wanted to produce something that was accessible to every cancer patient, regardless of their cultural background, or level of health literacy. We decided to use animation as this format offers us a simple, easy to follow, method of getting the necessary message across, it is at once comforting and familiar to the patient, whilst at the same time allowing this very important information to be taken in and processed.“

Ginny Ludlow’s four children were aged between five and 15 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. Ginny, from Crouch End, said:

“My cancer diagnosis came as such a shock ten years ago. While trying to come to terms with the news, I remember the effect on my children was uppermost in my mind. I really wanted to protect them and I was anxious to find the best way and the right words to tell them what was happening. There weren’t any resources like this animation then and I had to go with my instinct to be open. I didn’t want them to worry too much but I was really pleased that I did explain things as we went along as I think this helped us all to get through the ups and downs of the next few months as a family.

“This animation would have been so useful and reassuring to me in many ways. My children were at such different stages of their lives (aged 5,10,13 and 15) and the film talks you through how different age groups might react and process information. I also remember feeling bad about sometimes getting upset in front of my children, but the animation explains that it is ok to cry as it can help children to understand that they can also show their emotions.”

Notes to editors

1. The animation is available on the Fruit Fly Collective website http://fruitflycollective.com/animations-health-education/ and the London Cancer Youtube Channel www.youtube.com/londoncancer
2. London Cancer is part of the UCLH Cancer Collaborative. We work with healthcare providers across north central and east London and west Essex to deliver comprehensive cancer care for patients from diagnosis, through treatment, to living with and beyond cancer.
3. The Fruit Fly Collective works with schools, hospitals, charities and local authorities to provide evidence-based practical solutions to problems that primarily surround the communication and understanding of health, using creative practices.
4. Twitter #cancertalk2yourkids