Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program

People between the ages of 13 and 31 face unique challenges when it comes to cancer. Certain cancers happen more often in this age group. Managing the demands of cancer treatment, school, work, and family commitments can be difficult. 

What is the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program?

The AYA Cancer Program of University of Iowa Health Care is a new program that combines the expertise of specialists at UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

The AYA Cancer Program not only provides care for patients during treatment, but also the issues and problems unique to this group that will affect their lives later on.

These services include:

  • Clinical trials
    • Studies show that in the United States only 25 percent of patients 15 to 19 years old participate in a clinical trial, compared to 70 percent of pediatric patients.
    • Clinical trials are already part of our existing programs, but through the AYA Cancer Program, but we will create more trials specifically to help the AYA group.
  • Coordinated clinical care
    • Studies have shown that AYA patients have better outcomes if they are treated at centers with expertise in both pediatric and adult cancer care.
    • In the AYA Cancer Program, teams of both pediatric and adult cancer specialists, including oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and geneticists, will work together to determine specific treatment options for patients.
  • Fertility
    • Many cancer treatments can have effects on fertility and impact a person’s ability to have children later in life.
    • Our comprehensive program will include
      • Discussions about fertility options with patients before treatment begins
      • Assist in the preservation process and future family planning
  • Genetic counseling
    • Some cancers associated with inherited conditions often develop during adolescence and early adulthood.
    • A team of genetic counselors will help identify individuals and families at increased risk for cancer with the goals of:
      • Promoting awareness
      • Early detection
      • Cancer prevention
  • Pain and palliative care
    • Experts in pain and symptom management will address the needs of AYA cancer patients. 
    • These services will help:
      • Manage pain and other symptoms from cancer and/or treatment
      • Provide assistance to patients needing transition to hospice or palliative care
  • Supportive services
    • Learning to cope with:
      • Emotions
      • Changing body image
      • Understanding  their illness and treatment
      • Navigating changes in school and work
      • Managing relationships with family and friends
      • Assisting with financial stressors are all problems for the adolescents and young adults with cancer.
    • The AYA Program plans to develop activities specifically to benefit them through collaboration with the UI Child Life program.
  • Survivorship planning
    • Cancer treatment may cause many unwanted side effects such as:
      • Depression and anxiety
      • Fatigue
      • Growth and hormone problems
      • Memory and concentration issues
      • Pain
      • Physical disabilities
      • Problems with sexual health and fertility
    • An AYA survivorship clinic will help patients manage these problems and work with a patient’s primary care provider to ensure patients are as healthy as possible after cancer treatment.
      • This will include pain management and fertility preservations with other UI Health Care experts.

Team Approach

Drawing on the expertise of two nationally-recognized teams with strong traditions of advanced medical care and research, the AYA Cancer Program is a collaboration between:

  • University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
    • Iowa’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center, and
  • University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital
    • Iowa’s only comprehensive children’s hospital and a member of the Children’s Oncology Group

The AYA Cancer Program is being developed with input from patients and families who are an important part of our medical team. Their feedback helps identify the most important components of AYA cancer care from a patient and family perspective.

Support Our Mission

While we are already providing the most advanced care in Iowa for adolescent and young adult cancer patients, your support will allow us to grow our programs, fund pilot research projects, and develop innovative therapies. Please consider making a gift today.