• Young Adult Cancer Issues with Karen Fasciano, PsyD

    Karen Fasciano, PsyDKaren Fasciano, PsyD 

    The chat took place on October 3, 2011. This transcript has been edited for clarity and style. 

    Young adulthood is often a time of intense emotional development, rapid change and planning for the future. Young adults with cancer are faced with additional challenges such as disruptions in school or work, dependence on family and friends, losses related to their cancer, and coping with uncertainty.

    In recent years, there has been both national and international recognition of the unique needs of young adults with cancer, including a call for developmentally appropriate emotional health services.

    Dana-Farber's Young Adult Program addresses the emotional needs of young adult cancer patients treated in our medical oncology clinics. It's an innovative program that includes education about emotional coping, self-help modules addressing common emotional concerns, peer support, off-site interactive programs, and a social networking website.

    How do you define "young adults" in this context? Is it purely based on age?

    The National Cancer Institute defines adolescence to young adulthood as 15 to 39 years of age. The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber is within adult medical oncology and serves mostly 18- to 34-year-old patients. However, we focus more on the appropriateness of the program to the individual's life stage, rather than their age.

    What's the most common emotional challenge you see among young adults with cancer?

    Among the most common issues are coping with the ways life changes because of cancer, needing to rely on others, dealing with uncertainty and having difficulty planning for the future.

    What is a good answer to family members who want to help during treatment?

    Often, young adults have to renegotiate relationships with their parents or partners. Cancer is difficult for caregivers as well as young adult patients. It's important for everyone to remember to have compassion for each other. Young adult patients should express what they need, and know that these needs will change over time.

    When you meet with young adult patients, do they express concerns about fertility issues?

    Young adults vary in their reactions to changes in fertility due to cancer treatment, depending on how important having biological children is to them. Sadness is a normal reaction to this kind of loss. It is important to recognize this loss and find the support you need.

    It's also important to remember that not all cancer treatments impact fertility.

    Any final thoughts before we finish today's chat?

    The emotional impact of cancer can be as difficult as the physical impact for young adults. Getting help from your support system or professionals at your cancer center can help you manage these difficult emotions.

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  • Young adults with cancer face unique challenges

    • screenshot of a patient from the Young Adults video Hear from a young breast cancer patient and clinical psychologist Karen Fasciano, PsyD, about challenges faced by young adults coping with cancer in this video.