Young cancer patients (YCP) face unique obstacles and unmet needs as treatment-induced endocrine disorders, late-term complications and psychosocial perspectives. Currently there are no formal programs to comprehensively address these unmet needs but rather scarce disease-oriented services. We hypothesize that proactive intervention of broadly-designated support for YCP will optimize their coping with the disease and side effects, improve quality of life (QOL) and yield better fertility preservation rate. We aimed to assess the implementation of an “oncoyoung program” using a predefined protocol of patient triage to fertility preservation (FP), supportive care and psychosocial support on patients’ satisfaction rate.
“Oncoyoung” program (for patients <45 years) was launched at our institution in mid-2019 staffed with physician, coordinating nurse, social worker, psychologist, physical therapist, dietician and a multidisciplinary comprehensive umbrella of services. Patient council comprised of young patients or survivors’ representatives was established to tailor program outlines with the program staff. Patient were asked to evaluate the service. We prospectively evaluated the program outcomes.
In the first year (2020) 321 patients (median age 37y) visited the program, mostly females (69%). Common diagnoses were breast, gastrointestinal, cervical and hematological cancers. The majority had non-metastatic disease. Of the cohort, 30% had more than one visit. 89% of patients were offered FP (74% successfully performed), which exceeded historical cohorts. Following triage 72% of patients were referred to additional services, and 61% to psychosocial support. During COVID-19 pandemic physiotherapy and psychosocial support were substantially converted into virtual sessions that were considered successful by the patients. Satisfaction rate reached 95% and 83% indicated an improvement in their QOL following the program intervention.
With young adults, treating cancer is only part of the equation. Dedicated comprehensive programs aiming at actively intensifying the supportive care paradigm for young cancer patients carries high potential to improve cancer care.
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All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.