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Feature Article

Adolescents, young adults and cancer: what GPs need to know

MICHELLE NG, VHARI FORSYTH, Toby Trahair, NIGEL CARRINGTON, ANTOINETTE ANAZODO

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Abstract

GP care for adolescents and young adults with cancer can be vital for the wellbeing of patients through their diagnosis, treatment and follow up. It is important for GPs to be familiar with cancer services for this age group, including services that provide age-appropriate medical, nursing and psychosocial care.

Key Points

  • GPs have an important role in providing care for adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer, and their role should be encouraged, even for patients with complex needs.
  • Dedicated AYA support services are essential for delivering developmentally and age-appropriate care to AYA patients, whose needs are significantly different from those of younger and older patients.
  • CanTeen administers the Federal and State Government-funded age-specific Youth Cancer Services across Australia for cancer patients between 15 and 25 years of age.
  • Challenges when caring for this age group include understanding the differences in cancer biology and the complex psychosocial needs of AYAs, and enabling participation in clinical trials and research.
  • Young people attend their GP frequently but consultations involving symptoms related to cancer are rare. The Early Detection of Cancer in AYAs guideline has been developed for primary health professionals involved in the management of AYAs with cancer.
  • Although cancer in the AYA age group is rare, a cancer diagnosis is the most common cause of death in this age group after accidents, murders and suicides.

    Picture credit: © Rubberball/Jessica Peterson/Diomedia.com
    Model used for illustrative purposes only

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