ST. LOUIS – Adolescent and young adult cancer patients, typically ranging in age from 15 to 30, now have a dedicated treatment space at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. The Mercy Cardinals Young Adult Cancer Program includes a multifaceted, team-based approach providing state-of-the-art medical care while addressing the emotional, financial, education and career disruptions that a cancer diagnosis entails.
“Adolescent and young adult patients diagnosed with cancer face a unique struggle as they are forced to confront their own mortality at a time when their peers are discovering independence and feeling invincible,” said Rob Hanson, MD, PhD, Mercy Clinic pediatric hematologist-oncologist and director of the Cardinals Young Adult Cancer Program.
As the only dedicated AYA program in the St. Louis region, Mercy's team of physicians, nurses, social workers and therapists have collaboratively built a supportive environment that wraps around patients and their families and friends beginning at the time of diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and long into survivorship.
Cancer in this age group is biologically different than the same cancer in older or younger patients.
“It was really 20 years ago that we recognized a dramatic difference in results when these patients were treated with pediatric style therapy versus those treated with adult style therapy,” Dr. Hanson said. “Young adults did much better with the pediatric directed regimen, which is difficult to administer with complicated and everchanging protocols.”
In order to provide AYA patients the more complex, pediatric treatments away from small children running around or babies crying, a new space has been dedicated for them. The space and staff for the AYA program are possible thanks to community support, charitable giving and Mercy Health Foundation St. Louis.
“It seems to be this missed group of people – you have this group in between who aren’t little enough to hug and hold but they’re not adults either to understand what’s going on with them,” said Christi Fletcher, whose son Cole was 17 years old when diagnosed with leukemia. “It was nice that attention was given to the teenage group.”
For more information about the AYA Program at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, please click here.