How Else Does Cancer Affect Young Patients? Researchers Look at Other Areas of Life

A cancer diagnosis impacts much more than just health outcomes. A study published in the journal Cancer examined how cancer affects school, work, and financial independence in adolescent and young adult patients.

“For adolescents and young adults (AYAs), the diagnosis of cancer can impede social development, especially with respect to education, employment, and financial independence. However, there are limited quantitative data on the extent and trajectory of life disruptions during cancer treatment for AYA patients,” the researchers explained.

The present study included 145 adolescent and young adult cancer patients (aged 15 to 29 years) treated at a large academic center who completed questionnaires not long after their diagnosis and then at four and 12 months post-diagnosis.

Before their diagnosis, half of the patients lived with their parents, but after their diagnosis, 61% of patients lived with their parents (P=0.0002 vs. six months before diagnosis); the rate was similar four months after diagnosis (61%; P=0.001) and decreased slightly 12 months after diagnosis (55%; P=0.07). Just over a third of patients (38%) were not attending school before being diagnosed with cancer; after diagnosis, this increased to 61% (P<0.0001) and remained similar at 61% four months after diagnosis (P<0.0001); 12 months after diagnosis, the proportion decreased to 54% (P=0.001). Before their diagnosis, 30% of patients were not working, compared to nearly half (49%) after diagnosis (P<0.0001). More than a third of patients (37%) had attained financial independence prior to their diagnosis; after diagnosis, this dropped to 31% (P=0.02). At 12 months post-diagnosis, 65% of patients (n=94) still had not returned to their precancer baseline in at least one of the four measured social domains.

“For many AYA patients, cancer leads to less engagement with school and work activities and decreased financial independence from parents. Clinicians should engage in early and ongoing discussions with patients about the potential impact of cancer on their lives,” the study authors concluded.