UNM Oncology to Pull Adolescents Out of "the Gap"

March 27, 2006

Contact: Jenny Savage (505) 272-3651


As teenagers and young adults prepare for the road of life, sickness and old age are perceived as distant figures on the horizon. But for some, serious illnesses such as cancer, can strike early, throwing additional uncertainty into a period of life that is just beginning to take shape.

Over the past fifty years, pediatric oncology has witnessed a dramatic boost in survival rates thanks to a national effort towards intense research and discovery in the field, yet cancer patients barely out of the pediatric age range have not enjoyed the same results. Instead, the years between 15 and 30 years old are becoming known in cancer research as the "gap" group that has, until recently been relatively neglected.

As part of a nationwide effort to address the specialized needs of adolescent and young adult cancer patients, the UNM Department of Oncology has developed a program targeted specifically at adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer.

Nicknamed AYA (Adolescents and Young Adults), the aim of the program is to provide consistent treatment to teenage and young adult patients with a special emphasis on the unique psychosocial issues facing 15-30 year olds including autonomy and independence, peer pressure, education, graduation from school, social development, sexual maturations, intimacy, marriage, reproduction, fertility, employment, parenting and insurability.

The AYA program at UNMH is staffed by both adult and pediatric doctors who provide collaborative care to adolescent and young adult patients. The clinic, which will eventually be housed in the new UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center , is the only one of its kind in New Mexico .

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