This week is National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. This is a very important demographic of cancer patients for a number of reasons. Read below as we highlight the challenges this underserved group faces during and after treatment.
Why are AYAs (adolescents & young adults) an underserved population?
AYAs are defined by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as people diagnosed with cancer when they are 15-39 years old. This range covers a specific biological and developmental time frame that encompasses different needs than young children or older adults. This is important because cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in 15-39 year-olds. Since this group is in such a critical growth & reproductive phase they face a unique set of medical issues when faced with cancer. A few examples include delays in diagnosis, limited access to required specialists, unknown responsiveness to treatments since they do not fit pediatric or adult models, concerns about the impact on future fertility/sexuality and psychological issues. Despite this great need, AYAs have low enrollment in clinical trials due to restricted access and options.
How prevalent are blood cancers in this demographic?
Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in adolescents and young adults (AYAs). About 70,000 young people (ages 15-39) are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States – accounting for about 5 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States. Leukemias and lymphomas are the most common cancers among 15-24-year-olds.
How is this group unique?
Adolescents and young adults are at a unique stage in their emotional, cognitive, and social development, which cancer often disrupts. Many younger AYAs are in the midst of taking steps to establish independence from their parents and to complete school or enter a desired career. Older AYAs are focused on ways to progress in the workforce toward a desired career goal, to find a life partner, and to raise a family. A cancer diagnosis often temporarily, and sometimes permanently, derails these plans.
What resources do adults and young adults with cancer have at their disposal?
While there are resources for pediatric and adult oncology patients, the resources tailored to the AYA population are lacking. This population faces many short- and long-term health and psychosocial consequences of cancer diagnosis and treatment, but many programs for cancer treatment, survivorship care, and psychosocial support do not focus on the specific needs of AYA cancer patients. The need is noteworthy, so much so that The Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum convened a public workshop to identify the unique care requirements for this population.
How is LLS helping address these needs?
The North Texas Chapter Patient Access team is currently planning an educational event this spring for this demographic. It will provide an overview of current research geared towards AYAs and discuss how oncology programs can best suit their needs. Additional information about this program will be released shortly. Contact Seetha Modi with any questions.