Oncologists need to understand unique needs of young cancer patients

November 14, 2011
Dr. Leonard Sender

Are cancer patients between the ages of 15 and 39 years old getting the best care possible?

Dr. Leonard Sender doesn’t think so. The director of the adolescent and young adult cancer program at UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center tells the November edition of Clinical Oncology News that the next generation of oncologists need to be better educated about the unique needs of AYA oncology patients.

Research has shown that these patients  have better outcomes when treated aggressively, as are pediatric cancer patients, said Sender, who recently launched the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology to raise awareness among oncologists.

“It is a tragedy to me that 11 years after the first abstract was published… that there are still young adult patients who are treated with a protocol for acute lymphoblastic leukemia the same as if they were 50 or 60 years of age, when we know that there is a big difference in outcomes,” said Sender.

When treating an AYA patient, oncologists need to think about “sticking to the regimen, not dose-adjusting when you shouldn’t, not being kind by giving them the weekend off when they really need to get their chemo,” said Sender.

The AYA patients also have unique psychosocial needs, may have fertility issues and will need long-term follow-up, he said.