Moving forward in young adult cancer advocacy


Today I learned that around 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year. That's around one young adult diagnosed every eight minutes. These are stats I didn't know before, and I imagine many of those outside the young adult cancer movement don't know either. But what I found most fascinating is the progress the movement has made even in the last 20 years. Now, there's the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance, the American Society of Clinical Ongology's "Focus under 40," many AYA-focused organizations springing up, growth of AYA-specific clinics (there are an estimated 18 in the U.S.), a new journal and society for AYA oncology and, most recently, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network released physician guidelines for adolescents and young adults.Part of these great advances for the movement is an increased visibility, not only in the cancer sphere but also with the general public. Will Reiser, screenwriter of 50/50 and a young adult cancer survivor himself, spoke to the gathered patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates. He said that when they started production on the movie, they were worried that the irreverent humor in the film would offend people and cancer organizations might not like it. Instead, he's here in Vegas talking to hundreds of people who can relate to the experiences he put on the screen. He said he went through a lot of the issues he put on the screen in different ways and that because he was an expert on a topic that no one around him really was, he was able to uniquely share that, especially conveying young adult cancer patients isolation. And even though cancer is such a personal illness, he's been able to connect with several people who also had similar experiences. And what's even more exciting is that everyone here is embracing the growing momentum of the movement. The theme of the conference is about sharing and learning from each other and looking forward so that future young adult cancer patients have a better experience--both medically and psychosocially. With the new NCCN guidelines for physicians out now, guidelines for patients will follow within the year, so young adult patients can know what questions to ask their physicians. I got the chance to talk with Brad Zebrack, PhD, himself a young adult cancer survivor and now a researcher into young adult cancer topics. As part of his next research project, he wants to ask young adult cancer survivors what would be the optimal system of care and what programs they would like to have in place. He wants to then take the voices of the survivors to the people in charge of making decisions--to add in a voice that's been missing.It's interesting to see how young adult cancer advocacy has grown, but it's exciting to see how it's still growing and where advocacy is going. What aspect of the young adult cancer movement are you excited for?

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