Creation of units specializing in the treatment of cancer for 16-24 year olds
Three new National Cancer Treatment Units for adolescents and young people are to be set up across Ireland, bringing together relevant experts to ensure more effective treatment and longer-term quality of life for young patients.
The new adolescent and young adult cancer units will be located at St James’s Hospital Dublin, University Hospital Galway and University Hospital Cork. They will take care of young people aged 16 to 24 suffering from cancer.
This was announced at an HSE press conference in Dublin on Thursday for a new framework for the care and support of adolescents and young adults with cancer in Ireland. It covers the period up to 2026.
Each year in Ireland, 180 to 190 people aged between 16 and 25 are diagnosed with cancer. For children, the figure is around 200.
Recent studies have shown that while cancers in children and older adults have seen a large increase in survival rates, the same is not true for some cancers in adolescents and young adults. This means that cancers in young people have become an area of increased interest in the medical world.
Cancer is the leading cause of natural death in this age group, with around 30% incidence of blood-related disease. The incidence rates of germ cell tumors, sarcomas, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma are also higher in these young people than in adults or children, and this incidence rate increases overall in adolescents and young adults.
Studies have also shown a large increase in survival rates for cancers in children and the elderly, but not for the middle cohort.
The framework document states that it is now “widely recognized that traditional models of cancer care do not adequately meet the needs of the population. [adolescent and young adult] AYA population. Many AYA patients do not feel comfortable in pediatric or adult settings and they have a unique set of needs that are often not adequately met by either service.
He said a “comprehensive multidisciplinary approach more tailored to the specific service needs of this population who experience intensive physiological and psychosocial changes during their cancer journey should be urgently considered”.
The framework documents were “intended to be a starting point for setting the direction for AYA’s cancer services in Ireland”, he said.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the framework was intended to be “a starting point to set the direction for AYA’s cancer services in Ireland. The healthcare landscape in Ireland is changing and so must our efforts. We must continue to face new challenges and strive to meet the needs of AYA patients.
Professor Owen Smith, National Clinical Lead for Childhood, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancers at the National Cancer Program, said these patients were “a unique group that deserves special attention”.
They were “a diverse group” in terms of age and the distinct biology of their cancer, but also “in terms of the challenges they face in terms of adequate access to age-appropriate cancer care.”