Doctors Must Work Together Better To Improve Survival in Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Patients

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Cancer - Teen patients

Cancer doctors across the UK and beyond need to make a concerted and coordinated effort to improve the treatment and care of young people with cancer, according to the UK's first Professor of Teenage and Young Adult Cancer.

Professor Tim Eden said: "Up until now, attempts to improve the treatment of these patients has been somewhat fragmented and uncoordinated. The same applies to research. This condemns teenage and young adult cancer patients to a lottery in which some will be treated well, but many may receive sub-standard treatment and care. In some cases this will make a difference to the chance of a cure."

He told a news briefing at the Teenage Cancer Trust's 4th International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine that there was an urgent need for paediatricians and oncologists treating adult patients to communicate with each other and work together to improve the care of all young patients.

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"This is not happening enough at the moment. There are large sections of the medical community who are not engaging in the process of improving research, treatment and care for teenagers and young adults (TYAs). We all need to be involved in this, talking to each other and coordinating our efforts. Otherwise there will be little or no improvement in survival for this age group."

Professor Eden, who is based at the University of Manchester, the Christie Hospital and Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust, told the conference that recently he had sent out a questionnaire to the chairs of the Disease Specific Sub-groups within the Cancer Network in Greater Manchester and the North West.

"We asked them whether they worked with children, and whether they also worked with teenagers and young adults, and if so, how the two age groups connected. Only about half replied, and many said that paediatricians should not be involved in treating young adults with cancer, even though many of the cancers that we see in the 13 to 24-year-olds are not necessarily adult cancers, but are often cancers specific to this age group.

"The survey underlined the fact that many cancer physicians and surgeons are so busy with a huge workload that the rarer teenage and young adult cancers do not really register or resonate with them. This is why it is so very important that some specialists do take a big interest and coordinate care for TYAs."

At present, TYA cancer patients in the UK can find themselves being treated either on a children's ward, surrounded by toys and story book murals, or in an adult ward with much older people

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