Explore the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program

Overview

Adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with cancer face unique challenges and have specific needs. Historically, oncology care has been divided between pediatric and older adult patients, creating additional challenges for AYAs as they navigate their cancer care while also balancing mental health, financial wellbeing, educational and career development goals, fertility, and social connection.

The AYA program at Mass General Cancer Center was established to directly address the unique needs of our AYA population. We are developing clinical and psychosocial frameworks and creating social opportunities to improve the quality of life and outcomes for our patients.

Our Mission

Our mission is to empower AYAs throughout their cancer care by fostering a community of patients, caregivers, providers, and advocates. The AYA program was established to provide an integrated model of care to address the multifaceted concerns of our patients.

  • Our AYA patients are the foundation of this program.
  • Our AYA patients drive the program’s ongoing engagement in research and educational initiatives to identify best clinical care practices.
  • Our AYA patients are instrumental in guiding the development of our psychosocial supports and social engagement opportunities.

Through this collaborative and dynamic effort, the AYA program aims to eliminate disparities in cancer care and outcomes of AYAs impacted by cancer.

Our Multidisciplinary Care Model

Our clinical care program is designed to provide a multidisciplinary approach to the care our AYA patients receive. The team includes medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists with experience caring for AYA patients. Our team provides resources and supports for fertility and sexual health, emotional wellbeing, education, physical health and rehabilitation, nutrition, social support, and spirituality.

Support Services

AYA program graphic

The AYA program provides patients with access to many support services at Mass General, including but not limited to:

  • Clinic for Reproductive Health and Cancer
    Provides guidance on fertility preservation options.
    (Video: Fertility and Cancer)
  • Integrative Therapies
    Offers free wellness services including acupuncture, yoga, and music therapy.
  • Lifestyle Medicine
    Provides personalized consultations and group visits to support exercise, nutrition, rehabilitation, sleep, and stress management.
  • Mind-Body Medicine
    Supports patients in learning coping and self-care techniques through interactive, group-based learning.
  • Oncology Social Work
    Offers counseling and emotional support through individual counseling, peer mentoring, and support groups.
  • Parenting at a Challenging Time (PACT)
    Provides individualized guidance to parents facing the challenges of cancer while parenting children and adolescents.
  • Psychiatric Oncology
    Offers a collaborative approach to addressing the psychological distress individuals may experience because of their cancer.
  • Sexual Health
    Supports individuals and their partners in maintaining or reconnecting with their sexual health.
  • Young Adult Brain Tumor Support Group
    This virtual group is open to patients between the ages of 18-40 who have a brain tumor. Find support from other young adults. For more information, please reach out to the group leader. Contact: Sandra McLaughlin, Oncology Social Worker, 617-643-2355

FAQs

Who are adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients?

AYA cancer patients are individuals between the ages of 15 and 39 who have received a cancer diagnosis.

What are the unique needs for AYA cancer patients?

AYAs receive a cancer diagnosis during a time of significant physical, emotional, and social development. Cancer and cancer treatment can disrupt critical developmental milestones leading to unique concerns. This may mean that AYA patients require support that is different from what is offered to patients at other life stages. Emotional and physical well-being, education, fertility planning, sexual health, and social engagement are some of the top concerns expressed by our AYA patients.

What services are available for AYA patients at Mass General?

We are committed to creating a space where patients feel comfortable discussing any of their concerns with their care team. As part of this effort, we have identified providers with AYA expertise throughout the Mass General Cancer Center. Patients can access supportive care resources including social work, psychology, psychiatry, sexual health and fertility, lifestyle medicine, integrative therapies, and parenting guidance.

Our dedicated AYA clinicians and program manager are available to connect you to these resources and answer any questions that you may have over the continuum of your care.

Connect with us at ayacancer@mgh.harvard.edu and 617-643-9434.

Where else can I find information on AYA cancer care?

There are several resources and organizations that address the core issues that many AYA patients experience. The following list highlights a few of the resources that are available.

 

Videos



AYA Clinical Champions

Judianne Henderson, NP

Judianne Henderson, NP
Oncology Nurse Practitioner

 

 

Christina Kim, NP

Christina Kim, NP
Oncology Nurse Practitioner

 

 

Jackie Cardarelli-Matte

Jackie Cardarelli-Matte, LICSW
Sarcoma and Gynecological Social Worker

 

 

Vinayak Venkataraman, MD

Vinayak Venkataraman, MD
Clinical Fellow, Dana-Farber/Mass General Brigham Cancer Care

 

 

Join Us!

Healing Through Writing Workshop
March 14th, 5:00-6:30 pm

Join the AYA program and the team from Elephants and Tea, a magazine by and for the AYA cancer community, in writing prompts and for an open discussuon to connect with peers. You will learn how to use journaling as a form of self-therapy in a relaxed, safe environment. View event flyer (pdf).

Register here

Clinical Trials

Researchers at the Mass General Cancer Center are conducting a study to learn about the experiences of young adults with cancer and their partners. View study flyer (pdf) and information sheet (pdf).