By Nonniekaye Shelburne, CRNP, MS, AOCN®, 2014–2015 ONS Congress Content Planning Team chair

With 70,000 new cancer diagnoses in young adults each year and more than one million survivors, this patient population is growing rapidly. Young adults with cancer have traditionally fallen between the two worlds of pediatric and adult cancer. They are not children with cancer, yet they aren’t older adults either. They are instead a unique population with developmental tasks and life experiences that differ from those in other life stages.

I had the opportunity to care for a man in his early twenties who was undergoing a hematopoietic stem cell transplant for leukemia. He and his wife had been married for four years and had three children—the youngest only four months old. Understandably, their concerns going into treatment included how to talk to their preschool children about why daddy was in the hospital, how they would maintain their health insurance while the husband wasn’t working during treatment, and how his wife could be a caregiver to her husband as well as three small children. As the patient transitioned to survivorship care, important topics for this family became how to safely integrate the patient back into the workplace, managing fatigue while keeping up with an active family, and redefining intimacy while considering body image changes due to graft-versus-host disease and treatment-related infertility.

The young adult population poses unique challenges and multiple unmet needs, many of them in the psychosocial domain. Nurses are ideally situated to provide psychosocial care to these individuals, their families, and partners.

“Young adults have developmental milestones that must be achieved in order to transition to full adulthood. Cancer causes a biological and psychosocial interruption, leading to many different challenges in daily life and future planning.”— Anne Katz, RN, PhD

Anne Katz, RN, PhD, will provide a session at the ONS 40th Annual Congress titled “Psychosocial Challenges for the Young Adult With Cancer—How Can We Help?” Join us to address these issues and take away tools to use in your work with these individuals, their partners, and families. Follow Katz on Twitter @DrAnneKatz. You can also learn more from Katz in her most recent book, This Should Not Be Happening: Young Adults With Cancer.

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at


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