Adolescents and young adults

Adolescents and young adults


Recent years have seen the emergence of adolescent and young adult (AYA) oncology as a distinct field due to lack of progress in survival and quality-of-life outcomes (Ferrari et al. 2010; NCI & USDHHS 2006; Smith et al. 2013). The significant developmental change that occurs during this life stage complicates a diagnosis of cancer during the AYA years, often leading to unique physical, social and emotional impacts for young women at the time of diagnosis and throughout the cancer journey (Smith et al. 2012).

In caring for young women with cancer, careful attention to the promotion of normal development is required (COSA 2011). This requires personalised assessments and management involving a multidisciplinary, disease-specific, developmentally targeted approach informed by:

  • understanding the developmental stages of adolescence and supporting normal adolescent health and development alongside cancer management
  • understanding and supporting the rights of young women
  • communication skills and information delivery that are appropriate to the young woman
  • addressing the needs of all involved, including the young woman, her family and/or carer(s)
  • working with educational institutions and workplaces
  • addressing survivorship and palliative care needs.

An oncology team caring for a young woman with cancer must:

  • ensure access to expert AYA health professionals who have specific knowledge about the biomedical and psychosocial needs of the population
  • understand the biology and current management of the disease in the AYA age group
  • consider clinical trials accessibility and recruitment for each woman
  • engage in proactive discussions about fertility preservation and the late effects of treatment and consider the woman’s psychosocial needs
  • provide treatment in an AYA-friendly environment.

Youth cancer services are available in each state/territory and can provide further advice and resources. See the resource list for contact information.