On October 12, 2010 a special issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology will highlight the importance of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer awareness. In an overview on AYA oncology, David M. Thomas, et al., emphasizes the “clear clinical need” for a new subfield of oncology. Issues that are important to AYA cancer patients are relevant to many clinicians, from oncologists (pediatric, medical, and radiation specialists) to nurses, psychologists, and reproductive endocrinologists.
In addition to the fertility issues that we often discuss on this blog, AYA patients need tailored approaches to care depending on their age. Unfortunately, there is a lack of data on the side effects of specific chemotherapy and radiation treatments on AYA patients. The quality of survivorship is also important to the AYA population and requires clinicians to have a broad understanding of the many life changes that patients may go through during or after treatment including attending college, entering the workforce, or starting a family.
A position statement in the same issue calls for increased training for health professionals that work with AYA populations. Specifically the authors recommend that professionals have AYA-specific clinical knowledge and can deliver appropriate care to their patients. In the case of oncofertility, this would require the clinical community to know all of the currently available fertility preservation options and deliver care by referring them to appropriate reproductive specialists. The Oncofertility Consortium tries to facilitate this process through the FERTLINE that helps providers and patients understand the fertility preservation options available in their area.
The Young Adult Alliance was started to mobilize the many organizations that care about AYA issues and holds an annual conference every year. This November, members of the Oncofertility Consortium will attend the conference and present their knowledge on navigating oncofertility patients and the different perspectives in oncofertility. We look forward to meeting with the AYA community and hearing their insights on the issues!