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When young adults have cancer, their needs are often far different than those of their younger and older counterparts. Soon, a dedicated patient navigator will be part of treating the whole patient at Prisma Health (formerly known as Greenville Health System).

Aniket Saha, a pediatric hematology/oncology physician at Prisma Health, said this patient population, which often includes young parents, can face unique barriers to getting the care they need. Prisma Health has about 150-200 new patients who are adolescents and young adults (AYA) ages 15-39 each year.

“Maybe it’s a 25-year-old who just started a new job or a 35-year-old with two kids,” Saha said.

Young adults may be concerned about future fertility, about childcare during their illness or even transportation to appointments.

“It’s a population that is not necessarily set in terms of their community,” said Kerri Suski, director of cancer support at Prisma Health. “It’s a time of change for a lot of them in terms of moving from high school to college to family. Their health might get pushed aside.”

With the help of grants from St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Teen Cancer America, the new dedicated patient navigator – who had not yet been hired at press time – will help AYA patients navigate the complexities of having cancer as a young adult, while also pursuing and undergoing treatment.

“The goal of this person will be to follow them and act as their primary support person,” said Liz Cull, a hematology/oncology physician and coordinator of the AYA program.

The navigator will direct patients to resources and connect them with young adult cancer survivors for mentorship, while also serving as an extra layer of support to make sure patients have what they need to overcome barriers to attending appointments, getting medications and meeting other needs.

After treatment is completed, patients need to be equipped to adjust to life after cancer.

“Patients finish treatment and they feel like, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’” Susko said. “There are changes and emotional impact that a cancer diagnosis has that range across who they are as a whole person. It’s making sure they are getting every aspect of their life covered, including the medical.”

In addition to the navigator, the Prisma Health Greer location will add an AYA outpatient infusion space that will be able to better accommodate the needs of young families.

“We’re trying not only to look at the patient survivor but the whole family,” Susko said. “When there is a cancer diagnosis, it affects the whole family.”

To learn more, visit http://ghs.org/canceraya or call 864-454-2922.

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