Embarking on a program for young adult cancer patients

Cancer does not affect everyone equally. They type and extent of cancer matters, of course, but so does the nature of the individual. One of the biggest differentiators is age, especially those who are in the adolescent and young adult age, which is arbitrarily defined as between ages 16-39. This so-called "AYA" range is an area where we need more information and research. While mortality has improved for all cancers on the average, patients in the AYA age range, as a whole, has not benefitted over the years. This could be due to a number of factors - less insurance coverage, patient naturally focusing on other aspects of their life and maybe affecting compliance, misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis, and the lack of consensus or knowledge on the best treatment approach since cancer is not common at this age and some of the cancers are of rarer types. Our center has embarked on an AYA program and we are aiming to address patient care, research and education through coordinating care, making resources available (such as fertility planning and social network-based support), supporting research through tissue banking and specialized clinical trials, and by exposing trainees in various medical fields to AYA oncology. (You can read more here.)The shortage of funding in this area, and the fact about 10 to 12 percent of patients are in this range, force us to be creative and efficient with our efforts, but we believe that this mission is critical to a significant part of our cancer population. Patients who are facing cancer at a time of personal and professional growth have to balance between these important priorities and run the risk of isolation and threats to relationships and careers in addition to fighting cancer. AYA cancers affect us all and we welcome the trend in building AYA oncology centers of excellence and raising awareness for this special effort.