Seattle Children’s Hospital is opening a new cancer unit Sunday specifically designed for teens and young adults.
When young cancer patient age 15 to 29 goes in for treatment, they end up either in a pediatric or adult facility. A designated place for this age group could play a crucial role in their survival, according to Dr. Becky Johnson.
Dr. Johnson is a pediatric oncologist and medical director of Children’s new Adolescent and Young Adult Program (AYA). Survival rates for adolescents have lagged behind children and older adults. One reason is that young adults with cancer often have unmet needs.
“There’s evidence that getting cancer as a teen or young is psychosocially a very hard experience,” said Johnson. “So their rates of PTSD following therapy are elevated compared to those who get cancer at younger or older ages. Their rates of anxiety are quite high.”
Dr. Johnson explained there will be a psychologist and other specialists to help patients through their cancer experience. The new unit will also have features that encourage them to interact with each other.
Great Britain has had cancer programs for young adults for a couple of decades with positive outcomes. A recent study shows that cancer deaths in this age group have dropped by nearly half. But the report also points out that too many young adults are still left out of clinical trials that could potentially boost their survival rates.