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Interventions available to adolescents and young adults bereaved by familial cancer: a systematic literature review
  1. Veronica Ing1,
  2. Pandora Patterson2,3,
  3. Marianna Szabo1 and
  4. Kimberley R Allison2
  1. 1 School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 CanTeen Australia, Newtown, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Cancer Nursing Research Unit, Sydney Nursing School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pandora Patterson, Research and Youth Cancer Services, CanTeen Australia, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia; pandora.patterson{at}


Objectives To assess the availability and efficacy of interventions open to adolescents and young adults (AYAs; 15-25 years) bereaved by a parent’s or sibling’s cancer.

Methods A systematic review of peer-reviewed literature on interventions available to AYAs bereaved by a parent’s or sibling’s cancer was conducted through searches of six online databases (PsycINFO, Medline, Scopus, Embase, SWAB and Web of Science Core Collection).

Results Database and reference searches yielded 2985 articles, 40 of which were included in the review. Twenty-two interventions were identified that were available for bereaved young people. However, only three were specific to young people bereaved by familial cancer, and none were specific to AYAs. Interventions primarily provided opportunities for participants to have fun, share their experiences and/or memorialise the deceased; psychoeducation about bereavement, grief and coping was less common. Only six interventions had been satisfactorily evaluated, and no intervention targeted or analysed data for AYAs separately. Overall, some evidence suggested that interventions (especially those that were theoretically grounded) had positive effects for bereaved young people. However, benefits were inconsistently evidenced in participants’ self-reports and often only applied to subgroups of participants (eg, older youths and those with better psychological well-being at baseline).

Conclusions Considering the very limited number of interventions specific to bereavement by familial cancer and the lack of interventions targeting AYAs specifically, it is unclear whether currently available interventions would benefit this population. The population of AYAs bereaved by familial cancer is clearly under-serviced; further development and evaluation of interventions is needed.

  • adolescent and young adult
  • bereavement
  • familial cancer
  • intervention
  • systematic review

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  • Correction notice This article has been updated since it was first published. The article type has been changed to Systematic review.

  • Contributors VI designed the study, conducted the initial systematic review, drafted the article and approved the final manuscript. PP supervised the study design, initial systematic review and subsequent updates, contributed to the revision of the paper and approved the final manuscript. MS supervised the study design and initial systematic review, contributed to the revision of the paper and approved the final manuscript. KRA contributed to the initial systematic review, subsequent updates and drafts of the paper and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.