Unmet needs in recently diagnosed adolescent and young adult cancer patients
Lack of psychological and social support
A cancer diagnosis for adolescents and young adults can be especially challenging. A new research shows that social, psychological and informational support these patients need might be unmet. Compared to both children and older adult cancer patients, adolescents and young adults, ages 14-39, demonstrate a different set of psychosocial needs and issues related to their unique age-related development. Whether these patients are treated in a paediatric or adult setting can influence their clinical and psychosocial well-being.
A new study, led by University of Michigen Comprehensive Cancer Centre researchers, shows that psychosocial needs are not met in significant proportion of patients in this age group. Results from the study were published in the journal Cancer.
Cancer patients ages 14-39 exhibit varying and unique psychological and social needs after diagnosis
According to the study’s lead author Bradley Zebrack, PhD, MSW, MPH, associate professor of social work and associate professor of health behaviour and health education at the University of Michigan, when patients in this age group are diagnosed with cancer, they face issues like premature confrontation with mortality, changes in physical appearance, disruptions in school or work, financial challenges and loss of reproductive capacity. All of these can be particularly distressing. Whether it’s about mental health care, information for topics like infertility, or other aspects of care like camps or retreat programmes, this study shows that many of these patients don’t get the care they need to address these unique challenges.
The researchers surveyed 215 newly diagnosed cancer patients between the ages of 14 and 39, assessing the patients’ use of and desire for various information resources, emotional support services and practical support services. They found that patients in their 20s were significantly less likely than teens and patients in their 30s to report using mental health services and were more likely to report an unmet need for cancer information, infertility information and diet/nutrition information.
Additionally, compared with teens who were treated in paediatric settings, young adults treated in adult, as opposed to paediatric, facilities were more likely to report an unmet need for age-appropriate Internet sites, mental health services, camp and retreat programmes, transportation assistance and complementary and alternative health services.
There’s a lack of research surrounding the needs and desires for care of patients in this age group, therefore it can be hard for health care professionals to establish age-appropriate services to meet their unique psychosocial challenges.
The results of this study might help medical professionals better tune their care to meet the needs of their adolescent and young adult patients. This research shows that increasing patient referral to community-based social service agencies and reputable Internet resources can enhance the care and improve the quality of life for this group of patients.
The authors reported no conflict of interest. The research support was provided by HopeLab Foundation, Redwood City, USA.
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