Teens and cancer: Providing the care and support they need
Those teenage years: Adolescents are no longer children, but they aren’t adults yet, either. Teenage cancer patients have unique physical and emotional needs – and sometimes, those needs remain unmet.
When teens get cancer
Cancer in teens and young adults is relatively rare – possibly leaving healthcare providers ill-equipped to provide the comprehensive, supportive, nuanced care these patients need.
Jacqueline Casillas, MD, director of the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program details some of the challenges facing teens with cancer:
- Inadequate care coordination among cancer-care specialists
- Limited access to clinical trials, due to limited availability, restrictive age criteria or inadequate exposure to clinicians with knowledge of relevant trials
- Insufficient psychosocial support, which is a critical component of cancer care in young adults. In fact, effective psychosocial support may be equally as important as quality medical care for young adults.
Takes one to know one
Now, adolescents with cancer have a place to call home. The Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program is the first program in the United States to focus exclusively on the needs of this population.
And since there’s nothing teens like less than an adult telling them what to do, this program was designed with the input of an adolescent and young adult patient-advisory board.
Meet the teens on the advisory board, who are actively involved in enhancing the care of their fellow teens and young adults.
The cancer care teens need
From initial diagnosis through survivorship, the Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program provides teens and young adults with cancer have a place dedicated to supporting their unique needs. Through this program, they can meet others going through the same experience and have access to oncologists with specific expertise in treating this age group.
The program provides:
- Seamless, holistic care that addresses the unique medical, psychosocial and supportive-care needs of teens
- Facilitation with appropriate clinical trials, so teens and young adults can benefit from the most advanced treatments available
- Family support, as cancer affects everyone in the family
- Survivorship support, focused on what to expect after treatment
Life after cancer
Sarcoma is a common cancer among adolescents and young adults. “We fully expect our patients to survive — we are concerned with their quality of life after cancer,” says Noah Federman, MD, UCLA pediatric oncologist and director of the UCLA Pediatric Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Program.
Certain cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may affect fertility. As teens look ahead, starting a family may be an important consideration. More and more, healthcare teams are discussing fertility preservation with young adults.
Learn more about the cancer services for teens and young adults at the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program and UCLA Pediatric Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Program.