By Pat Carragher - April 05, 2021
Every year more than 89,000 Americans between the ages of 15-39 are diagnosed with cancer. This group, referred to as adolescent and young adult patients, must choose to seek treatment at health care facilities designed for either pediatric or older patients. But this group has unique needs, such as psychosocial, fertility, financial and physical effects of cancer, that need to be addressed during their cancer journey.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, over 1,500 new appointments are made each year for patients between the age of 15-39. The cancer center developed the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Program in 2011 to meet the needs of AYA patients and their families by providing access to resources, services and organizing peer to peer supportive events. Since its inception, the AYA Program has taken a multispecialty approach to addressing the unique concerns of its patients and assisting them in navigating their cancer care journey. The program offers several options to engage and support patients, including an AYA survivorship clinic, the Swim Across America Adolescent and Young Adult Lounge, social events, wellness fairs, educational opportunities, navigation assistance and access to fertility preservation education and support. Education is also provided to all patient-facing team members about the unique needs for this population.
There is also a robust and collaborative research group within the AYA Program, driving efforts to learn more about the needs of this patient population and develop interventions to improve their cancer care journey. The program hosts an annual retreat to facilitate research partnerships and collaborations and pilot funding for research studies made possible by private donations.
Patients and survivors are also involved with the program through the AYA Ambassador patient advocacy group. These volunteers meet once a month to provide program development feedback and plan peer to peer activities.
It is because of our AYA Ambassadors, staff, Moffitt leadership and donors that the AYA Program can address the many concerns of this population. With more patients to serve, Moffitt is continuing to increase awareness and research for our AYA patients and their families.
This article was written by Amber Skinner, AYA Program Coordinator.