Health Professional News

Expert care for adolescents and young adults

Learn about the cancer and blood disorders program at Children’s Minnesota

Children’s Minnesota’s health care providers have earned the reputation as the kid experts – serving patient families as both the seventh largest pediatric system in the country and the largest pediatric system in Minnesota. But, our organization’s combined clinical expertise extends well beyond patient age groups ranging from prenatal to preteen – our expert specialized care also includes adolescents and young adults battling cancer and blood disorders.

Medical treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — while extremely important — are just part of the care plan in our adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer and blood disorders program. Children’s Minnesota designs individual treatment plans in coordination with a patient’s referring physician that include resources for psychological and emotional needs. This strategy also includes peer support groups and opportunities for patients to just have fun with people their own age.

Children’s Minnesota AYA cancer and blood disorders program overview

Children’s Minnesota knows that not every cancer and blood disorder diagnosis is the same, and treatment plans are not identical – especially when it comes to patients between ages 15-29. This specific age group has unique medical and quality of life needs that are different from any other age range – including differences in cancer types, tumor biology, prognosis and survivorship, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Our program is designed around meticulous patient guidelines developed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) in areas such as fertility, treatment options and more to create an effective personalized care plan for each patient.

“Based on NCCN guidelines, we provide expertise in managing developmental issues including fertility and sexual function, education and career development, employment, spiritual care, genetic and familial cancer risks, and other age-appropriate psychosocial needs,” said Dr. Julie Chu, AYA oncology program director at Children’s Minnesota. “Patients are evaluated using pharmacogenetic assessment with the goal of individualizing therapy and avoiding toxicity. We emphasize clinical trial enrollment, including tumor banking studies and multicenter trials, to help ensure our patients have as many options on the table as possible to enhance positive patient outcomes.”

Resources for sexual health and fertility

During such an uncertain time in a patient’s life, Children’s Minnesota prioritizes explaining to both the young men and women in our program the potential risks to their fertility, and provide resources for their sexual and reproductive health. As a result, the majority of patients in our program go on to successfully have children of their own. Our program includes resources such as:

  • 24/7 consultation services about fertility preservation options.
  • Sperm banking for male patients.
  • Options for regulating menstruation and preserving fertility in female patients.
  • Care from the only three fellowship-trained pediatric and adolescent gynecologists in the entire upper Midwest.
  • Referrals to fertility specialists, when possible, before treatment begins.

Our doctors, pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are also specially trained to confidentially discuss:

  • Dating.
  • Sexuality.
  • Sexual activity before, during and after treatment.
  • Fertility.
  • Family planning.

In addition to these resources, our organization is the only health system in the Twin Cities that offers ovarian tissue preservation (and pediatric ovarian tissue preservation) for patients who are at high risk for infertility based on their treatment. Children’s Minnesota also partners with other industry leading fertility preservation organizations that include:

  • Mayo Clinic.
  • Fairfax Cryobank.
  • CCRM Fertility-Minneapolis.
  • Reprotech.
  • Fertility Preservation in Pittsburgh, an affiliate of the Oncofertility Consortium.

Our expert care team

Children’s Minnesota’s AYA cancer and blood disorders care team includes physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists and social workers. Our providers are connected to the Children’s Oncology Group Network of AYA specialists, and attend AYA global events and conferences. Our team meets on a regular basis to discuss the patients concerns, medical care, psychosocial needs and overall well-being. This team also includes those who we believe are a vital part of the care process — the patient and their loved ones.

“Our AYA cancer model of care involves a multidisciplinary team of professionals focused on providing an individualized and a holistic plan of care,” explained Dr. Chu.

Working together, our board-certified doctors specializing in cancer and blood disorders lead the care process to:

  • Develop each patient’s personalized treatment plan.
  • Ensure patients and their families understand their treatments and medications.
  • Recommend other specialists and professionals, if needed, to help enhance each patient’s care.
  • Communicate back with the referring provider and primary care physicians about treatment plans, progress and anything else related to each patient.
    • This includes an end of therapy plan for follow up surveillance.

Our team also includes trained experts who care for a patient’s body, emotional well-being and their family — including specialists in:

  • Endocrinology.
  • Gynecology.
  • Genetics and genomic medicine.
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Registered dietitians and nutritionists.

In addition to this high-level of care at Children’s Minnesota, our partnership with Allina Health at Abbott Northwestern Hospital provides extended access to professionals at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and Minnesota Oncology.

Care amenities and resources

The Children’s Minnesota AYA cancer and blood disorders program provides resources for living with cancer, and access to the only pediatric cancer and blood disorders infusion center in Minnesota — the C.H. Robinson Infusion Center in Minneapolis.

Therapies and procedures at the C.H. Robinson Infusion Center include:

  • Chemotherapy to treat cancer, blood disorders and other conditions.
  • Enzyme replacement therapy.
  • Monoclonal antibody therapy.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy and other immune therapies.
  • Sedated lumbar puncture, bone marrow biopsy and intrathecal chemotherapy.
  • Transfusion of blood products.

A partnership with a purpose: delivering expert care

Minnesota’s only AYA cancer program is here for when you and your patients need us, 24/7. Our referral process is quick, easy and always just one call away through Children’s Minnesota Physician Access.

You can connect with our Children’s Minnesota Physician Access team and learn more about our AYA cancer and blood disorders program here.