Sensitive measures of early lung disease are being integrated into therapeutic trials and clinical practice in cystic fibrosis (CF). The impact of early disease surveillance (EDS) using these novel and often intensive techniques on young children and their families is not well researched. The Australian Respiratory Early Surveillance Team for Cystic Fibrosis (AREST CF) has operated a combined clinical and research early disease surveillance program, based around annual chest CT scan, bronchoscopy and lung function from newborn screening diagnosis until age 6 years, for over two-decades. To explore parental experiences of EDS in their child, a qualitative study was conducted using audio-recorded, semi-structured interviews in n=46 mothers and n=21 fathers of children (aged 3-months to six years) attending CF centres in Perth and Melbourne, Australia. Themes were developed iteratively using thematic analysis and assessed for validity and confirmability. Parents' experiences were positive overall; affording a sense of control over CF, disease knowledge, and belief that EDS was in the best interests of their child. Challenges included poor understanding about EDS measures leading to anxiety and distress, self-blame surrounding adverse findings, and emotional burden of surveillance visits. Tailored information regarding the practical and psychosocial aspects of EDS were endorsed. While experiences were generally positive there is need for information and psychosocial support for parents to mitigate anxiety and develop positive coping strategies surrounding surveillance procedures and results. Managing expectations regarding risks and benefits of disease surveillance in clinical and research settings are important aspects of care.
Authors: Tonia Douglas, Julie Pooley, Linda Shields, Stephen Stick, Cindy Branch-Smith, Australian Respiratory Early Surveillance Team for Cystic Fibrosis (AREST CF)