Five questions about the new Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer (AYA) Program with Pam Simon, CPNP

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Teenagers and young adults deal with a lot of change between the ages of 15 and 29. It could be getting through high school, moving across the country to go to college, starting a new job or even having children. Imagine adding a cancer diagnosis.

Unfortunately, it happens. That’s why we’ve launched the new Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Health Care. The goal? To help make cancer less of an issue for patients transitioning to the next big chapter of their lives. Pam Simon, certified pediatric nurse practitioner and director of the program, who has worked with pediatric oncology patients for more than 25 years, explains how this unique program will make a big difference.

Why was the Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program created?
The program was created because the needs of adolescents and young adults are distinctly different than younger children or adults. It doesn’t make sense to try to fit them into a specific pediatric or adult healthcare system because they make up their own age category, which is right in between the two. By having a program dedicated to them, we’ll help meet their unique needs and improve the chance of long-term survival and experiencing a normal life.

What are the goals of the program?
The goals for each patient we treat and care for are going to be a little different from one another. If the main goal is to stay in college or get back to college as soon as possible, we’re going to tailor therapies to help make that happen. Or if the main goal is to preserve fertility for the chance at having a family in the future, we’ll work with our fertility and reproductive health team to provide them the best chance. No matter what the goals are, we will work together with the patient and family to help them achieve it.

What services are offered to patients?
We work closely with the oncology teams who are already delivering state-of-the-art cancer care for these patients. The goal is to ensure patients experience a holistic approach that nurtures the mind and body. This includes:

  • Fertility and Reproductive Health: Appropriate family planning, sexual health and fertility preservation services.
  • Supportive Care: Personalized support services including spiritual care, acupuncture, dietary and nutrition support, reiki, yoga, Pilates, and mindfulness classes.
  • Peer-to-Peer support groups
  • Adolescent & Internal Medicine: Tailored general medical services for each individual patient.
  • Palliative Care: Consultations and holistic support for patients making both medical and personal decisions, which includes school, career, and spiritual planning.
  • Pain Management: Easily accessible pain management services, including non-pharmacologic symptom management such as acupuncture and hypnosis.
  • Recreational Therapy: Hospital and community-related options for peer support and getting involved in affinity groups.

Who is involved in the patient’s care?
Cancer treatment is led by our team of oncologists, and I serve as the AYA main point of contact for patients and help guide them through the program. In addition, there could be several other specialists who we will partner with to address specific issues in the patient’s care, depending on the diagnosis and treatment goals.

How will the program contribute to future patients with cancer in 5 or 10 years?
By enrolling patients today in advanced clinical trials and gathering research during their treatments, we hope to better understand how to care for this age group in the future. In addition, we’re gathering feedback and suggestions directly from our patients so that we better understand their needs and use the information to drive the development of other programs in the community.

Discover more about our Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program or call (650) 498-9404.

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