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ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute launches Young Adult Survivorship Transition Program

Cancer survivors are at risk for recurrence of their primary cancer and long-term and late effects due to their treatments

ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute has launched the first-ever Young Adult Survivorship Transition Program in Delaware to help adolescent and young-adult cancer survivors aged 18-39 to stay healthy after childhood cancer.

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While the number of cancer survivors continues to grow as advances in treatment and diagnosis are made, many cancer survivors have unmet health care needs as a result of their treatments. In Delaware, there are more than 1,800 cancer survivors in the 18-39 age group, according to the latest statistics from the Delaware Division of Public Health. In the U.S., there are approximately 1.6 million survivors in the age group.

“Cancer is a small word that carries a huge weight,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America Endowed Medical Director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. “The stress involved is not limited to just diagnosis and treatment, but it carries with it issues that can last a lifetime. The Young Adult Survivorship Transition Program is designed to address the myriad of concerns that come up with related medical, psychological and social problems to help ensure each patient has the support to enjoy a full and rewarding lifetime after cancer.”

Most patients in the program will come from referrals from oncologists at A.I duPont Hospital for Children. Others will come from referrals from primary care physicians, specialists, other hospitals and health care providers. The program also aims to reach survivors in this age group who have not been in regular contact with a health care provider since their last cancer treatment.

“Not only are survivors at risk for recurrence of their primary cancer, but complex treatments place them at risk for long-term and late effects,” said Pamela Simpson, M.D., medical oncologist and co-director of the program. “These effects can be secondary malignancies, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disorders or fertility and behavioral health issues. As a result, cancer survivors require long-term, tailored survivorship care.”

“Adolescent and young adult cancer patients face a unique set of challenges, distinct from both older adult and pediatric survivors,” said Stephanie Guarino, M.D., pediatric oncologist and program co-director. “They may be completing their education, applying for college or looking for a job. They are often starting their careers and may be beginning a family or planning for one. Some may have lost contact with their health care provider. Cancer makes these situations more difficult and complicated. These patients need an annual check-up to screen for chronic conditions that can occur as a result of their treatment.”

The Young Adult Survivorship team recognizes that the treatment of childhood cancer is complex and can lead to unique physical, emotional and cognitive challenges months or years after successful treatment has ended. The ChristianaCare team is dedicated to reducing late effects, either physical or psychosocial, and improving health and quality of life.

ChristianaCare’s team of specialists will work with each patient’s primary care physician to support overall wellness, including emotional support, disease prevention and rehabilitation. If patients do not have a primary care physician or have not been to one in a while, the team can help find one.

A typical appointment with the multidisciplinary team can include:

  • A physical exam and review of recent medical history.
  • Assessment to detect cancer reoccurrence or secondary cancers.
  • Assessment of the physical and emotional effect of cancer treatment.
  • Review of the patient’s survivorship treatment summary and care plan.
  • Referral for specialty medical disciplines, as needed.
  • Education on nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation, and emotional well-being for a mind, body, spirit approach to health care.

The Young Adult Survivorship Transition Program team consists of Drs. Simpson and Guarino, a survivorship nurse navigator as well as other specialized health care providers. Appointments are available at both Wilmington Hospital and the multidisciplinary clinic at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. To reach the program, call 302-623-4700.

About the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute
The Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, a National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, is part of the ChristianaCare, one of the country’s most dynamic health systems, centered on improving health outcomes, making high-quality care more accessible and lowering health care costs. With more than 245,000 patient visits last year, the Graham Cancer Center is recognized as a national model for multidisciplinary cancer care and a top enroller in U.S. clinical research trials. In conjunction with the Gene Editing Institute, the Center for Translational Cancer Research, the Tissue Procurement Center, statewide High-Risk Family Cancer Registry and collaborations with world-renowned scientists at facilities such as The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia scientists are opening new avenues to more quickly translate cancer science into cancer medicine. For more information, visit christianacare.org/cancer.

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