Real World Health Care Blog

Tag Archives: survivorship

Young Adult Cancer Survivors Need Special Support

Jean Rowe, Young Survival Coalition

Jean Rowe, Associate Director of Support Services, Young Survival Coalition

Young adults are at a certain stage of life development when diagnosed with cancer. They may be thinking about career decisions (i.e. do I stay in this job, go back to school or seek something new), where they want to live (e.g. hometown or move to another city), independently living on their own, and deciding what kind of mate they desire. They are not thinking about their lives being turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis.

All too often young adults are told “you’re too young” to have cancer when a concern is raised. This can result in late diagnoses and more advanced disease stage.

Young adults diagnosed with cancer experience interrupted lives. Their careers may be put on hold. They may have to take significant time away from work, which may or may not place their positions in jeopardy. They may have to move back home with their parents, which may involve having to move across the country. They often do not have financial resources (e.g. savings, 401(k)) to address the magnitude of cancer costs. While their peers are going through normal life steps (i.e. going to college, dating, or getting married and having children), young adults with cancer often isolate themselves and feel alone, thinking that their friends and family cannot understand what they are going through.

Anxiety and depression are not uncommon side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Chemotherapy can induce early menopause, a life and health change young women are not meant to experience for another 20 to 30 years. Early menopause impacts sexual libido and causes vaginal dryness. While in treatment and, potentially, for years to come, physical concerns like bone density and cardiac toxicity must be monitored. This could include taking preventative medication post-treatment (e.g. for osteoarthritis).

All of this impacts the young adult’s identity and life as he or she knew it. These side effects can last well past treatment when a young adult “looks fine” to the outside world while, “inside,” he or she is struggling emotionally, physically and existentially. They need and deserve support.

Celebrating its 20th year, the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is the premier organization dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women diagnosed with breast cancer. YSC offers resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.

We offer a multitude of wonderful ways to connect and a wealth of resources. A young survivor can connect 1:1, in person and online (both in support group format and through social media). Our national Summit typically hosts 600 young survivors and their loved ones each year. Our educational materials are available for free to download or order in hard copy through our website. Our support and resources are there so that every young woman diagnosed with breast cancer knows that she is not alone at any stage and at any point in her journey. This includes resources for metastatic young survivors whose concerns and needs deserve attention and support.

YSC also supports Co-Survivors (e.g. spouse/partner, family member and friend). Co-Survivors may instinctively place their survivor’s needs before their own. That can come at a cost; their health could be impacted as well. YSC offers support and resources to our Co-Survivor population.

We want to make sure no young adult and their co-survivors face breast cancer alone. YSC is here to help. Please reach out!

About the Author

Jean Rowe is Associate Director of Support Services, Young Survival Coalition (YSC). She joined YSC in 2011 with a background in clinical oncology social work. She is a licensed clinical social worker, a certified oncology social worker and a certified journal therapist. Her focus includes the crafting, piloting and implementing of supportive and educational programming for young breast cancer survivors, co-survivors and health care providers. As a certified journal therapist, Jean crafted an original program addressing re-establishing intimacy after breast cancer as well as continuing education journal writing programs for mental health and nursing professionals regarding compassion, fatigue, and self-care. She holds a master of social work from the University of Georgia and a bachelor of arts from the University of South Carolina. 

Suggested Reading:

Acquati C., Zebrack B.J., Faul A.C., Embry, L, Aguilar, C., Block, R.,…Cole, S. (2017). Sexual functioning among young adult cancer patients: A 2-year longitudinal study. Cancer, 124(2), 398-405.

Adams, E., McCann, L., Armes, J., Richardson, A., Starck, D., Watson, E., & Hubbard, G., (2010). The experiences, needs and concerns of younger women with breast cancer: A meta-ethnography. Psycho-Oncology, 20, 851-861.

Cheung, C.K. & Zebrack, B. (2017). What do adolescents and young adults want from cancer resources? Insights from a Delphi panel of AYA patients. Support Care Cancer, 25(1), 119-126.

D’Agostino, N.M., & Edelstein, K. (2013). Psychosocial challenges and resource needs of young adult cancer survivors: Implications for program development. J Psychosoc Oncol, 31, 585-600.

Zebrack, B.J., Kent, E.E., Keegan, T.H., Kato, I., & Smith, A.W. (2014). Cancer sucks and other ponderings by adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. J Psychosoc Oncol, 32, 1-15.

A Message from Our Sponsor

As the founding sponsor of Real World Health Care, the HealthWell Foundation is committed to helping patients get the medical treatments they need, regardless of their ability to pay. We’ve seen first-hand how financial distress can impact the health and lives of individuals and families. Cancer patients with behavioral health conditions are particularly hard hit; according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), patients with some forms of cancer incur $8,000 more per year in health care costs than cancer patients without behavioral health conditions.

In keeping with our mission, we are now accepting applications for our Cancer-Related Behavioral Health (CRBH) Fund, specifically for treatment-related behavioral health issues in cancer. The Fund provides financial assistance to individuals with a diagnosis of cancer to help with cost-shares (deductibles, coinsurances and copayments) for covered services rendered by behavioral health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counselors, and licensed social workers).

We invite readers of Real World Health Care to learn more about our CBRH Fund and how you can support it by visiting www.HealthWellFoundation.org.

“Triaging” Cancer and Behavioral Health Concerns

This week, Real World Health Care shines a spotlight on Triage Cancer, a national, non-profit organization that provides education on the practical and legal issues that may impact individuals diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers, through events, materials and resources.  We spoke with Joanna L. Morales, Esq., CEO of Triage Cancer, who offered insights on how the concept of “triaging” can be applied to behavioral health issues associated with cancer.

Collaborating to Help Cancer Patients

Real World Health Care: Can you tell us about the mission of Triage Cancer?

Joanna Morales, Triage Cancer

Joanna L. Morales, Esq, CEO, Triage Cancer

Joanna Morales: Triage Cancer believes that collaboration is the key to providing valuable information and practical tools on survivorship to the cancer community, particularly to its underserved members. To that end, Triage Cancer works with cancer community partners, healthcare professionals and other experts to connect people to relevant, practical and personal information on cancer survivorship issues, such as access to healthcare, treatment options, psychosocial care, survivorship planning, and the practical, legal and financial issues that arise as a result of a cancer diagnosis.

Navigating a Cancer Diagnosis

RWHC: How does the concept of triaging relate to being diagnosed, living with and surviving cancer, including related behavioral or mental health issues?

JM: Triaging is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatment based on the severity of their condition. When someone is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, there is information to learn, things that need to be dealt with, and decisions to make. Trying to juggle it all can be incredibly overwhelming. Our goal is to provide access to quality information about all types of cancer survivorship issues that may arise after a diagnosis. Armed with that information, individuals not only get the big picture of how to reach their end goals, but they can better decide what needs to be handled first and what can wait until later – the very definition of triaging.

With behavioral health issues associated with cancer, it’s about deciding what you can do for yourself and in which order those actions will best serve you. With a cancer diagnosis comes side effects and difficult decisions regarding treatment, health insurance, financial issues and more. Dealing with these legal and practical issues can create stress and anxiety. There is also data that shows that individuals with a higher financial burden are more likely to experience depression. We offer education on how to effectively navigate these issues, to thereby decrease stress, anxiety and depression. We also provide tools on stress management and other psychosocial topics that impact mental health.

For example, we offer a Don’t Stress the Stress webinar as well as a webinar on Staying Healthy After Cancer: Behaviors You Can Adopt to Improve Your Health. We also offer Quick Guides and an educational blog on our Resources page.

We have a new webinar coming up on November 15 that does a great job explaining what stress is and how it affects everyone differently. It will also provide simple, common sense and practical techniques to get stress under control. I encourage your readers to register for the webinar.

Recognizing a Problem is Just the First Step

RWHC: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the cancer patient community when it comes to behavioral health problems?

JM: At Triage Cancer, we believe one of the biggest challenges regarding behavioral health is not being sure where to start looking for help. Recognizing a problem is just the first step. Finding answers can be hard, and taking action toward a healthier you can be even harder.

While health insurance coverage includes coverage for behavioral and mental health care, there are still likely to be out of pocket costs that you may be responsible for. If your budget is tight, consider financial assistance programs that may be available to you, rather than just skipping getting the help you need. Triage Cancer offers a separate website at www.CancerFinances.org, which provides information on how to navigate finances after a cancer diagnosis and connects you to financial assistance resources.

A Message from Our Sponsor

As the founding sponsor of Real World Health Care, the HealthWell Foundation is committed to helping patients get the medical treatments they need, regardless of their ability to pay. We’ve seen first-hand how financial distress can impact the health and lives of individuals and families. Cancer patients with behavioral health conditions are particularly hard hit; according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), patients with some forms of cancer incur $8,000 more per year in health care costs than cancer patients without behavioral health conditions.

In keeping with our mission, we are now accepting applications for our recently launched Cancer-Related Behavioral Health (CRBH) Fund, specifically for treatment-related behavioral health issues in cancer. The Fund provides financial assistance to individuals with a diagnosis of cancer to help with cost-shares (deductibles, coinsurances and copayments) for covered services rendered by behavioral health providers (psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counselors, and licensed social workers).

We invite readers of Real World Health Care to learn more about our CBRH Fund and how you can support it by visiting www.HealthWellFoundation.org.