For many young cancer survivors, the completion or near completion of treatment is something to celebrate. But over time, there can be a set of unique challenges. Cancer treatment can take its toll on a developing body. It requires continuous follow-up care to ensure the transition from cancer treatment to survivorship; and help manage any late effects of cancer treatment.
Radiation therapy involving the nervous system can have effects on cognition, sensory neuropathy, and fertility. There also are those aspects of cancer care that are mental or emotional. Being treated for cancer during adolescence and young adulthood can affect body image—potentially impacting confidence and self-esteem. Chronic treatments also can impair their ability to develop financial independence.
“Luckily, for childhood cancer patients treated at the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, the transition is made more easily from adolescent to young adult survivorship care because of the partnership and proximity between the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center,” says Milan Sheth, M.D., hematologist/oncologist, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center.
The cancer programs for both hospitals came together to create the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Survivorship Program. This collaboration makes it easier for the two oncology teams to connect and “bridge” the patients between the two programs during their cancer journey. This also helps ease the transition from their pediatric provider to their new adult provider. Having a close collaboration between the pediatric and adult oncologists, can also improve outcomes by identifying the most effective treatment plan for each patient based on each discipline’s unique training and exposure to specific cancer subtypes.
“The environment within the AYA Program helps build patients confidence and independence so they can take ownership of their own appointment scheduling, reviewing care plans, and learning how to navigate their insurance carrier,” says Dr. Sheth.
Patients that receive care in this program receive a survivorship plan to support them through their late effects. Patients are seen by a multi-disciplinary team including a pediatric and adult oncologist, nurse practitioner and social worker during their follow-up appointments. If they develop a secondary cancer or face other late effects from their cancer treatment, they have immediate access to a team who meets regularly to discuss their care.
Because of the AYA Survivorship Program offered at the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute and the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, can now serve as a resource for our region by offering research trials that can address specific treatments and cancer survivorship care for adolescent and young adults. Including providing critical resources for psychosocial support, emotional support, school re-integration, and work-place issues face by cancer survivors.