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Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer are a vulnerable population with unique needs that are under-recognized and often overlooked by healthcare providers. This review focuses on identifying and meeting some of those needs including adherence to treatment, financial implications, impact on fertility and intimacy, issues with work/school, isolation, challenges with re-entry, and long-term side effects and survivorship.

Recent Findings

Survival rates have not improved in adolescents and young adults with cancer at the same rate as in children and older adults (the so called “AYA gap”). Restricted or delayed access to care and inconsistent cancer treatment and follow-up care contribute to this. Importantly, fertility preservation options have broadened and efforts to provide age appropriate counseling prior to treatment have improved. Additionally, AYAs face a variety of psychosocial issues while dealing with a cancer diagnosis during critical developmental years, and yet data pertaining to the successful identification and management of these issues is lacking. As a result, there has been recent increasing awareness that this patient population warrants strong advocates, additional research, and requires age group specific resources to be successful in navigating their cancer experience during treatment and into survivorship care.

Summary

Members of the healthcare team should familiarize themselves with the unique needs of AYA cancer patients to provide optimal patient care. In order to build upon early progress, this group calls for additional study particularly when it comes to barriers to enrollment for AYA-specific research (including clinical trials), recognizing psychosocial needs (both during and after treatment), transition planning for returning to life after cancer, and managing long-term effects of treatment (including neuro cognitive changes). In addition, access to financial resources and appropriate mental health support needs to be improved.

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Jin, Z., Griffith, M.A. & Rosenthal, A.C. Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer. Curr Oncol Rep 23, 17 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11912-020-01011-9

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Keywords

  • Adolescents and young adults (AYA)
  • Treatment adherence
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Fertility
  • Survivorship