by Kate Yglesias Houghton, President & CEO, Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance
Growing up my family spent time teaching us about the obligation to serve others. In their eyes, people of action and empathy were to be admired. In college, it was learning about our political process that made me realize that “service to others” was at the core of our government. Laws to effect change. Policies provide protection. A Thanksgiving basket was an act of service but it was not an act of change. By the time I was wrapping up my final courses I knew how I would serve others as a career: work in Washington, DC.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 69,212 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) were diagnosed with cancer in 2011 – this is 6 times the number of cases diagnosed in kids who are 0-14 years old (National Cancer Institute, 2014). This makes it kind of obvious that it’s important to have cancer centers dedicated to providing quality care that meets the range of specific needs of AYA patients.
When cancer is diagnosed in younger patients, there are a number of unique issues that need to be considered that older patients do not face. Fertility is one of the most important concerns reported by adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients as many hope to survive their disease and go on to have children in the future. Research focused on fertility in AYA survivors has increased in recent years, but there remains a great unmet need for comprehensive reproductive health counseling at all stages of the cancer continuum; before treatment begins and in post-treatment survivorship care.
Research investigating the impact of cancer upon sexuality, both physically and psychologically, has for the most part focused on the needs of adults. For adolescents and young adults with cancer, however, understanding the impact of cancer upon their psychosexual well-being is incredibly important. A cancer diagnosis during the AYA years may come at a time when a young person is establishing their sense of identity, forming intimate relationships, and becoming autonomous.1 Cancer can make these milestones a little more difficult to reach.
by Gemma Pugh & Abigail Fisher, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London
As cancer survival rates continually improve there is a growing number of young people living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. However, teenage and young adult (TYA) aged cancer survivors face a number of potential health problems as a result of their original cancer diagnosis and treatment. These health problems such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and endocrine dysfunction pose a significant burden to survivors throughout their life-course. There is emerging evidence that healthy lifestyle choices may prevent or delay the onset of such chronic disease problems, and improve the wellbeing and quality of life of young people with cancer.
Survivor Guilt: condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not… -Livestrong.com
A couple of close friends, that I met through cancer circumstances, have passed away in the past year, and it reminded me of a topic that I have been asked about fairly often. People ask me “Do you have ‘survivor guilt’ and how do you deal with it?”