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Young Cancer Patients Often Lack Support: Study

MONDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- Many teens and young adults diagnosed with cancer aren't receiving the social, psychological and informational support they require, new research suggests.

Cancer patients aged 14 to 39 have different needs and issues than younger and older patients, the researchers explained.

"When patients in this age group are diagnosed with cancer, they face issues -- premature confrontation with mortality, changes in physical appearance, disruptions in school or work, financial challenges and loss of reproductive capacity -- that can all be particularly distressing," study lead author Bradley Zebrack, associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said in a university news release.

"Whether it's mental health care, information for topics like infertility or other aspects of care like camps or retreat programs, this study shows that many of these patients aren't getting the care they need to address these unique challenges," he added.

Zebrack and colleagues surveyed 215 newly diagnosed teen and young adult cancer patients. Those in their 20s were much less likely than teens or patients in their 30s to use mental-health services and were more likely to report an unmet need for information about cancer, infertility and diet.

Young adults who were treated in adult, rather than pediatric, cancer facilities were more likely than teens who were treated in pediatric facilities to report an unmet need for age-appropriate websites, mental-health services, camp and retreat programs, transportation assistance and complementary and alternative health services.

The study was published online recently in the journal Cancer.

The lack of research involving teen and young adult cancer patients makes it difficult for health care providers to create age-appropriate services for them, Zebrack said. This study might help change that.

"Our research shows increasing patient referral to community-based social service agencies and reputable Internet resources can enhance the care and improve the quality of life for this group of patients," Zebrack said. "The more we know about their needs, the better support health care professionals will be able to provide."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about support for people with cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 16, 2012

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