Persons aged 20 to 29 years with cancer were significantly less likely than teenagers or adults aged 30 to 39 years with cancer to report using professional mental health services, and were significantly more likely to report an unmet need with regard to information on cancer, infertility, and diet and nutrition.

Investigators Brad J. Zebrack, PhD, MSW, MPH, of the University of Michigan School of Social Work in Ann Arbor, and colleagues reached these conclusions after examining the extent to which adolescents and young adults who underwent treatment in pediatric compared with adult oncology settings reported use of, and unmet need for, psychosocial support services. The researchers assessed 215 adolescents and young adults aged 14 to 39 years (99 from pediatric-care settings and 116 from adult-care settings) within 4 months after the patient’s cancer diagnosis to determine his or her use of information resources, emotional support services, and practical support services.

In addition to the lower use of professional mental health services and lower reported fulfillment of information needs among the 20-to-29-year-olds, Zebrack’s team found that compared with teens who received cancer treatment in pediatric facilities, adolescents and young adults in adult facilities were more likely to report an unmet need for age-appropriate Internet sites, professional mental health services, camp/retreat programs, transportation assistance, and complementary and alternative health services.

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The researchers note in the journal Cancer that bolstering psychosocial support staff and patient referral to community-based social service agencies and reputable Internet resources may enhance care and improve quality of life for adolescents and young adults with cancer.