Ashley Charitable Trust


The Ashley Charitable Trust was introduced to Gillian Forrest - a senior research fellow in the Section for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Park Hospital for Children, and Alan Stein - Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The Trust provided funding for Gillian and her colleagues to undertake a study exploring the accounts of mothers with breast cancer and their children to identify a child's awareness and understanding of their mother's cancer, their reactions to the diagnosis and the different types of treatment.

The study also investigated what information they would have liked to have been given and what they appear to need. It also compared and contrasted the two accounts to highlight areas where the perspectives differ.

Mothers were sourced to take part through the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital's Jane Ashley Unit at the Churchill Hospital.

Participants included 37 mothers with early breast cancer and 31 of their children aged between six and 18 years. Approval for the research project was given by the Ethics Committee, Oxford University and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust.


There was an existing awareness of cancer as a life-threatening illness, even amongst most of the children interviewed. The children described specific aspects of their mother's treatment as especially stressful (for example, seeing her immediately post-operatively, during chemotherapy, or following any hair loss). Many of the children in the study suspected something was wrong, even before they were told the diagnosis. Parents sometimes misunderstand their children's reactions, and underestimate the emotional impact, or do not recognise the children's need for more preparation and age-appropriate information about the illness and its treatment.


As part of their care, parents newly diagnosed with a life threatening illness need to be supported and encouraged to think about how they will talk to their children. GPs and hospital specialists, as well as nurses, are well placed to be able to help with these issues, and if necessary to be involved in discussions with the children.

The provision of appropriate information, including recommended websites, should form a part of this care. More information that is specifically designed for young children is required.


2006 – Article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

2008 – We were involved with Breast Cancer Care's book 'Mummy's Lump', published in May with multiple reprints.

The conclusion of the study was to produce a booklet for use of those affected by breast cancer – and consequently we were pleased that Breast Cancer Care offered to produce the book to explain about early breast cancer and its treatment to young children. Breast Cancer Care has been, and continue to be, pivotal in ensuring that the publication reaches those that need it.