, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1333-1341

Young adult cancer survivors' psychosocial well-being: a cross-sectional study assessing quality of life, unmet needs, and health behaviors

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Abstract

Purpose

This study compared the unmet needs, quality of life, and health behaviors (smoking, alcohol, and physical activity) of young adult cancer survivors to their older counterparts and age-related peers.

Methods

We conducted a subset analysis of the Cancer Survival Study baseline data collected from participants surveyed at approximately 6–7 months post-diagnosis. All 58 young adults aged 18–40 years at the time of first primary cancer diagnosis and participating in the study were included. Their responses to the self-administered SCNS-SF34, EORTC QLQ-C30, and standard items assessing smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity were compared to a random sample (n = 58) of gender and cancer-type matched older adults (64+ years) participating in the same study. Young adult survivors' health behaviors were also compared to previously published data for age-related peers from the Australian general population.

Results

Young adult cancer survivors reported significantly lower levels of social functioning; higher levels of financial difficulties, sexuality needs, health systems and information needs; and better physical functioning than their older counterparts. A significantly higher percentage of young cancer survivors were current smokers compared to older survivors (16.1% vs. 3.7%, p = 0.03), but is lower than that reported by age-related peers (24.8%). Compared to young cancer survivors (27.3%), significantly fewer older cancer survivors (8.3%, p = 0.046) and more age-related peers (53.6%) engaged in sufficient levels of physical activity.

Conclusions

The impact of cancer on young adults seems to be specific. Future research should verify the unique concerns of young adult cancer survivors in large and diverse samples.