Social Functioning Scores for Young Cancer Survivors Remain Lower Than Their Peers

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AYA cancer survivors have reported persistent difficulty with social functioning following their diagnosis.
AYA cancer survivors have reported persistent difficulty with social functioning following their diagnosis.

Despite some improvement over 2 years, adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors report persistent difficulty with social functioning after their diagnosis, according to a paper published in Cancer.1

Adolescents and young adults make up approximately 70,000 of the cancer diagnoses yearly in the United States. A cancer diagnosis can complicate the already challenging social, physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental changes that occur during adolescence and young adulthood. Furthermore, AYAs with a cancer diagnosis have been found to have persistently lower health-related quality of life scores in the 2 years after their diagnosis.2

Olga Husson, PhD, of the Department of Medical Psychology at Radboud University Medical Center the Netherlands, and colleagues sought to understand the long-term social functioning in AYA patients within the first 2 years of their cancer diagnosis.

Participants included were aged 14 to 39 years and followed longitudinally with self-reported social functioning measures at 4, 12, and 24 months after a cancer diagnosis.&

The investigators found that AYAs reported significantly worse social functioning compared with their peers at the time of their cancer diagnosis (52.0 vs 85.1, P <.001). Although the scores improved at month 12 (73.1 vs 85.1, P <.001) and then stabilized at month 24 (69.1 vs 85.1, P <.001), the scores remained significantly lower than the social functioning scores of peers.

Approximately one-third of the participants reported consistently low social functioning and more often were not actively receiving treatment, reported higher levels of distress, more physical symptoms, and less social support.

“Reducing physical symptoms and psychological distress and enhancing social support by interventions during the period after treatment may potentially help these young survivors to better reintegrate into society,” the authors write.1


1. Husson O, Zebrack BJ, Aguilar C, Hayes-lattin B, Cole S. Cancer in adolescents and young adults: who remains at risk of poor social functioning over time? Cancer. 2017 Mar 20. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30656 [Epub ahead of print]

2. Husson O, Zebrack BJ, Block R, et al. Health-related quality of life in adolescent and young adult patients with cancer: a longitudinal study. J Clin Oncol. 2017;35(6):652-659.

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