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Peer Support Preferred by Young Cancer Survivors

For adolescent and young adult cancer survivors, connecting with other cancer-afflicted peers of the same age may in some cases be more beneficial than receiving support from family and friends, according to a comprehensive survey of 15 -29 year old survivors. The preference of peer support above that of family support was a surprise to oncologists and other health professionals.

The University of California study is published in the December 15, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Peer Support Preferred by Young Cancer SurvivorsLed by Brad Zebrack, Ph.D., M.S.W. of the University of Southern California School of Social Work in Los Angeles, researchers conducted a comprehensive survey with oncologists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and young adult cancer survivors to better characterize the needs of this patient population and rank them in terms of importance.

According to Dr. Zebrack, “health professionals and survivors value highly the support of family and friends. However, meeting other young people who share a common experience becomes an opportunity for young adult cancer patients and survivors to address common concerns, such as coping with uncertainty about one’s health and future, feelings of being alone and isolated, body changes, sexuality and intimacy, dating and relationships, and employment issues.”

The study also found that this particular population prefers to be treated by physicians who are sensitive to their age-specific needs. They want to see doctors who understand what is important to a young adult at this stage of life, intuitively know how they think and act and, as a result, prescribe treatments best suited for them.

Other high priority health and supportive care needs reported by health professionals and young adult survivors were having adequate health insurance and on-going surveillance and assessment of long-term effects of treatment.

Despite dramatic improvements in childhood cancer survival rates, studies show the incidence of cancer in adolescents and young adults has actually risen higher than in children and older adult patients. Moreover, the improvement in five-year survival for this population has been poorer than average. Scientists propose that dramatic physical, psychological and social changes that occur during adolescence may contribute to the different outcomes. Therefore, understanding the unique treatment needs of adolescents and young adults with cancer may yield better understanding of cancer management.

“These findings provide oncology professionals and young adult cancer survivors with insight into each others’ values and perspectives,” conclude the authors.

They add that the study also points to a need for more age-appropriate educational materials written in a way that makes sense and has meaning for adolescents and young adults.

Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Peer Support Preferred by Young Cancer Survivors

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Peer Support Preferred by Young Cancer Survivors. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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