The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer program encompasses the care of patients who are between 15 to 40 years of age at the time of diagnosis. This population comprises patients who have a wide range of diagnoses, some of which are more common in older adults and some of which are more common in pediatric patients. Many of these patients over the past decades have fallen into a gap in care between the pediatric and the adult cancer specialists. We have not seen advances in cure rates for the AYA patient over the past few decades compared to that of children and older, adult cancer patients. This is believed to be related to reduced enrollment in clinical trials, and a care model that has not addressed age specific challenges of having cancer while developing as a young adult.
There are significant and unique psychosocial needs that the adolescent and young adult cancer patients experience. Developmentally, they are seeking independence, training for their future careers and fostering relationships with their peers. Social interactions are critical to their well-being. The diagnosis of cancer stresses that developmental path, if not addressed properly. This places them in a position of dependency on family and social isolation with friends moving on with their “normal” lives and possibly unable to relate to the cancer experience. Patients must navigate a very unfamiliar medical maze that often might seem overwhelming and unfriendly.
Moffitt Cancer Center has developed an approach to serve the adolescent and young adult with cancer. We have assembled a medical and psychosocial resource team with expertise in adolescent and young adult care that actively addresses the needs of this vulnerable population. Patients who fall into this age category will be offered access to cutting edge trials and state-of-the-art cancer care by physicians with a focus on AYA patients. Moffitt's team of experts support patients throughout the treatment process and helps them to navigate this course to a fulfilling, productive life during the treatment of and after cancer.