Sensitive Issues & Recommendations

Facilitators to pre-view the DVD

It is essential that teachers view the DVD before showing it to students. Interviews can be shown in any order to suit class needs. Teachers may like to invite parents to view the DVD with students.

Real life stories of breast cancer in families

Please keep in mind that some students may know a relative or friend who has been affected by breast cancer, and the topics in this resource may be sensitive areas to raise with them. In particular, the DVD portrays ‘real life’, personal stories of young people’s experience of breast cancer in their families, and in the story by the two sisters, of the loss of their mother through breast cancer. The DVD also includes the story of an Aboriginal boy, Nelson, whose mother is a survivor of breast cancer. It is essential that students understand that each person’s journey, as shown in the DVD, is unique and that the outcomes shown may not relate to relatives or friends affected by breast cancer.

Parents/caregivers may wish to participate

A key aim of the activities in this resource is to enable students to be better prepared to cope and provide support if breast cancer or a similar illness affects a family member, friend or themselves personally. Inviting parents/caregivers to attend and participate in the activities of this resource will enable students to discuss and share their learning about breast cancer and ways to understand and cope with illness with their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander grief and loss

Grief and loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture may involve practices and prohibitions that differ from other racial and cultural groups. Before deciding to use these activities it is essential to consult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders of the specific community to establish whether or not it is acceptable.

In some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, hearing the names, seeing photographs or images or listening to recordings of deceased persons may not be culturally accepted. The DVD's may contain content that is culturally sensitive and not normally used in some public or community settings. Please be aware of this possibility before choosing to use or view the DVD's.

Previous grief and loss issues

Although a student may not know someone with breast cancer, thoughts and feelings from previous losses can be triggered by current loss experiences and discussions about loss. It is possible that students may get upset during some of these learning activities. Setting up a procedure to manage such an occurrence needs to be done before undertaking the activities. The class should be informed at the beginning of the activity: ‘If anyone feels upset or sad about the things we discuss and does not want to stay in the classroom, you may go to [name a safe, supervised place that has already been arranged]’. There should be follow-up with the student after the lesson.

Affected students may be referred to the school psychologist, chaplain or other student support services in the school.

Support services are also available at Breast Cancer Care WA or the Cancer Council in each state.

Teachers may like to teach this topic in conjunction with MindMatters, Loss and Grief materials. MindMatters is a project of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Materials are available from the Curriculum Corporation, PO Box 177, Carlton South VIC 3053, or can be downloaded from the MindMatters website.

Breast cancer highly unlikely in school-aged students

It is also important to remember that it is highly unlikely that a high school student would develop breast cancer. About 99 per cent of lumps in this age group are normal.