Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, often referred to as “AYAs,” are loosely defined as people ages 15-39 years old. People on the younger side of this range often get treatment tailored to children, and people on the older side of this range often get treatment tailored to older individuals. The issue here is that AYAs have specific needs that children and older people with cancer don’t necessarily have.
AYAs are underserved in both physical and mental health care across the nation. It’s time to stop leaving AYAs behind.
Right now, there are many childhood cancer organizations and plenty of additional organizations dedicated to a specific type of cancer. The number of AYA-focused organizations pales in comparison even though, annually, AYAs account for six times as many cancer diagnoses as childhood cancer diagnoses in America.
AYAs are dealing with a cancer diagnosis at a time in their life when they are supposed to be more independent than ever. It affects their ability to participate in the activities they love, to go to school, to perform well at work and to connect with people their own age.
CSC is committed to being a leader in psychosocial support for cancer patients and their network of supporters. A good place to begin the conversation about the lack of attention around AYAs is with the ways improved social support could be beneficial.
These are specific areas and situations where AYAs need better social support:
- Lack of feeling in control of life decisions
- Difficulty following a previously planned life path
- Inability to do what peers are doing or to keep up with friends
- Returning to school or work after treatment
- Fertility concerns
- Worry of return of cancer
- No specific support groups or networks that understand AYAs
- Financial burdens
There is so much to be done regarding the improvement of care for AYAs, but better social support to help AYAs deal with the implications of their diagnosis and treatment is a great place to start. Funding for cancer research is of paramount concern, but it is the long term solution. But, AYAs and cancer patients need social support now more than ever.
If you know an AYA or are one yourself, you can build your support network through these digital support networks provided for free by Cancer Support Community and its partners such as:
Group Loop: Specifically for teens with cancer and teens affected by cancer.
MyLifeLine: An easy forum where friends and family can see updates on treatment, send financial support, and learn more about types of cancer.