Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology

Teens and young adults diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer have different needs and treatment challenges than younger children or older adults. Children’s adolescent medicine program meets teens’ and young adults’ many health needs, including the critical social and emotional needs that are part of normal growth and change in adolescence. We understand this is an important time and will focus on helping them meet their potential during and after treatment.

Adolescents with a hematology or oncology diagnosis benefit from Children’s experts in psychology, social work, behavioral medicine, and child development. We work together with your family every step of the way, through diagnosis, treatment and care after treatment.

Why Choose Children’s?

Aggressive clinical trial enrollment. According to the National Cancer Institute, sometimes teens and young adults with cancer do better with treatment approaches that are tailored to young children rather than those designed for older adults. Furthermore, clinical trials are an important treatment option for cancer patients of all ages, and often yield better results for patients who participate than those who do not. At Children’s, 15- to 19-year-old teens and young adults are enrolled in clinical trials at four times the national average for the same age group. This aggressive approach to enrollment in research studies has placed Children’s in the top 5% of members enrolling patients in the clinical trials of Children’s Oncology Group (the world’s largest pediatric cancer research cooperative).

Emphasis on preserving fertility. Preserving fertility in teens and young adults receiving chemotherapy, radiation or surgery is an important part of their quality of life and hope for the future. Being able to have your own children may not be on your mind now, but we believe it will be some day. We place special emphasis on preserving fertility and offer sperm banking for all male teens and young adults; while females typically are placed on evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (i.e., guidelines that combine knowledge from an experienced clinical practitioner, current research and patient preference) for regulating menstruation and preserving fertility.

Dedicated pediatric gynecologist. At Children’s, we have a pediatric gynecologist – the only one in Minnesota – within the clinic who provides expert medical and surgical care to patients with cancers of the reproductive tract and provides special knowledge about fertility-sparing treatment options for ovarian tumors.

What is the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology program?

In addition to customizing treatment protocols to your teen’s unique developmental stage and diagnosis, adolescent care at Children’s involves:

  • Partnership between your teen or young adult, family and medical team. Adolescents are still learning to take care of themselves. We work closely with them to listen to concerns and fully understand their questions about treatment or medications to develop the best possible treatment plan that works for them. If necessary, we have access to a variety of specialists, including pediatric pharmacists, neuropsychologists and psychologists, child life specialists, and other experts.
  • Supportive care and services for teens and young adults. About 30 percent of our patients are teens and young adults. This means you are likely to meet other kids your age and their families who are also going through treatment for cancer. We partner closely with teens and young adults to ensure their input, participation and adherence to their care plan.
  • Self-care options. It can be frustrating when cancer or a blood disorder makes adolescents more dependent on their parents or caregivers. Self-care options can empower teens to help reduce side effects and take control of an aspect of their health care. At Children’s, teens can be trained in biofeedback, self-massage, mental imagery, and other integrative medicine techniques that may help reduce nausea and fatigue. Yoga and other fitness programs for teens with cancer or blood disorders can help reduce stress and maintain fitness during treatment.
  • Peer connections. The hematology/oncology team helps teens connect with peers through seasonal events coordinated by hospital staff, summer camps, and the Youth Advisory Council. Staff members can visit patients’ schools to help school personnel understand treatment side effects and educational needs that can help a teen re-integrate into the school setting.
  • Children’s Youth Advisory Council is another resource to answer your questions. YAC is a dedicated group of patients, ages 10 to 18, who offers practical ideas on how to help Children’s focus even more closely on the special needs of children and teenagers. They eagerly voice their opinions, from choices of food on the hospital menu to how they want adults at Children’s to relate to them.
  • In Your Room. Each patient room in hospitals has a flat-panel television with free On-Demand movies and video games, video game system, full-size sofa bed, private bathroom, wi-fi access and a mini-fridge for personal groceries.

More about the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program