Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program

Providing Individualized Care for Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Patients. 

Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program

We realize that adolescents and young adults with cancer have unique needs and face challenges not encountered by other groups. It is our goal to ensure that our patients between the ages of 15 and 39 receive the best available individualized care, by providing state of the art treatment options with a comprehensive team approach that addresses the physical, psychological, social and emotional needs of adolescents and young adults along the journey from diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and remission.

US News Badge Cancer

Nationwide Children's Hospital is ranked No. 8 by U.S. News & World Report for Cancer.

Our Approach to Care Includes:

Cancer care designed for you. Adolescents and young adults with cancer have different needs and challenges than children or older adults. That is why we offer the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program. We provide expert medical care and support to patients who might otherwise fall into the age gap between treatment programs designed for children and those designed for adults. We have partnered with Teen Cancer America to bridge this gap.

Better treatment results. Research shows that for certain kinds of cancer, adolescents and young adults have much better outcomes when they receive treatment at a pediatric hospital like Nationwide Children’s, compared with adolescents and young adults treated at an adult hospital. Our outcomes are better than the national average, especially for patients with certain kinds of leukemia or brain tumors. –can we say this?

Care for the whole person. We are committed to providing not only the most effective cancer treatment, but also comprehensive care that helps adolescents and young adults reach their full potential at school, work and home. We know our patients have important plans and goals beyond fighting this disease. 

A role for family and friends. Along with a normal, healthy desire for independence, adolescents and young adults need support from parents, other family members, peers and, in some cases, spouses. Inclusion and respect for each of these essential people in a young person’s life is at the heart of how we engage with AYA patients.

A supportive and calming environment. On our inpatient unit, there is an AYA lounge designated for patients above the age of 15. Each room is private, equipped with a 42-inch TV that has “GetWell Town”—an interactive entertainment system with access to the internet, movies, games and personalized care information. All rooms have a DVD/Blu- ray player with the ability to connect your personal game system. The rooms also include amenities such as adjustable temperature, colored lighting and personal bathrooms & showers.

Why Should Young Adults go to a Children’s Hospital?

Nationwide Children’s Hospital is part of Children’s Oncology Group, which is a large cooperative group of over 200 children’s hospitals from around the world. This gives AYA patients the opportunity to be part of a clinical trial directed toward fighting their cancer whenever possible and keeps us on the edge of new treatment developments.

Studies have shown that for certain types of cancer, adolescents and young adults have better outcomes when treated on pediatric-inspired protocols. At Nationwide Children’s, we have experts in many of the common cancers that are seen in the AYA population.

AYA Bill of Rights

We are neither pediatrics nor geriatrics, we have unique needs- medically, socially, and economically. However, the rights and dignity of adolescent and young adults are equal and vital to all individuals. We deserve to have our beliefs, privacy, and personal values respected. Access to care is a right, not a privilege. Learn more about the AYA Bill of Rights.

AYA Care: A Team Approach

We are composed of a multidisciplinary team that are devoted to providing expertise care for common cancers in the AYA population.

Meet Our Team

Meet our AYA Team

  • Oncology physicians trained and specialized in AYA oncology care
  • Inpatient and outpatient oncology nursing staff with AYA training and expertise.
  • A Fertility and Reproductive Health Nurse Practitioner 
  • Nurse navigators to facilitate disease specific comprehensive care.
  • Clinical Psychologists that provide specialized assessment and intervention services. They are knowledgeable about the specific psychosocial needs of the AYA patient population.
  • Program coordinator that identifies areas of needed support, coordinates with team members and educates about resources available to patients in the AYA program. The coordinator serves as an advocate in the community for cancer health promotional programming and events.
  • Education Coordinator that partners with AYA patients and their high school and colleges to help maintain their academic endeavors while receiving treatment and into survivorship.
  • Events Coordinator that assists in the planning and coordination of AYA events that provide both a supportive network and psychoeducation about AYA specific medical and psychosocial needs.

Our Psychosocial Team

  • Licensed Medical Social Workers that provides advocacy, emotional support and linkage to community resources that are specific to the AYA population.
  • Certified teachers that are employed through Columbus City schools to provide educational support to patients during inpatient treatment and collaborate with the school liaison. 
  • An Art Therapist that helps patients find pleasure, experience meaning in the creative process, and foster a sense of healing and personal well-being. 
  • A Music Therapist (MT-BC) that assesses ways to support individuals’ well-being through music. MT-BCs use a variety of music-based interventions ranging among active, passive, or insight-oriented levels of engagement with goals such as relieving stress, supporting coping, promoting self-expression, or reducing negative physiological symptoms. 
  • Child Life Specialists that provide support to children and their families to minimize the stress and anxiety related to hospitalization and increase their coping related to medical experiences.  
  • Pastoral Care that provides emotional and spiritual support for patients and families of all faiths and cultures. 
  • Occupational Therapists that use various treatment methods focused on facilitating development, enhancing function and maximizing independence in all daily life activities. 
  • Physical Therapists that use various treatment methods to develop or restore movement, promote healing and function, and educate children and their families. 
  • Therapeutic Recreation Specialists that help patients and families develop and use leisure in ways that enhance their health, functional abilities, independence and quality of life. 
  • Massage Therapists that use the gentle application of systematic touch, focusing on specific areas of the body, or the whole body, for the purpose of promoting healing and relaxation. 
  • Licensed Genetic Counselors that review patient and family histories to identify those who may have higher genetic risk for cancer. They help parents and adolescents make informed decisions about genetic testing and adjust to genetic risk information.

Support

Coping

Typically developing adolescents and young adults are faced with many physical, social and emotional challenges at this point in their lives. Adding a diagnosis of cancer, can compound these existing stressors. This is a time in your life you may be focused on your education, career, relationships and/or dating. These current life needs might counter and conflict with the needs of your diagnosis. While your plans may look a bit different now, our staff provide support to become your own advocate and live your life to the fullest.

Peer Connection

Diagnosis, treatment and survivorship can be an isolating experience. You may have to miss school, work and/or delay plans for secondary education. Your peer and romantic relationships may change. We recognize the need and benefit to connecting with peers that have had shared experiences. This connection can promote a sense of group identity, improve emotional well-being and help develop new coping skills.

Our program provides quarterly social events that are designed to provide a peer connection in a relaxed environment with an additional focus on education and psychosocial topics important  to AYA patients and their families. Events may include outdoor activities (such as kayaking or ziplining), sporting events, cooking events, scavenger hunts and speakers who provide education on a variety of topics, including fertility, education and insurance issues. For more information about these upcoming events, email AYAevents@NationwideChildrens.org or call (614) 722-3620.

Additionally, we offer peer mentoring support through Connecting Families’ Program. This program provides an opportunity for you to be carefully matched with an AYA oncology peer mentor who has had similar experience and can help provide support through your diagnosis and treatment. For more information about this program, please visit Connecting Families.

Education & Career

School is one of the most important aspects in the life of an adolescent. The school intervention team is available to provide educational support services during and after treatment. 

School Liaisons

School liaisons are assigned to treatment teams and will meet each newly diagnosed AYA patient still attending high school. The liaisons are also available to assist patients in college or other post-secondary programs as needed. Services are provided based on need and include assistance with establishing home instruction, assistance with the transition back to the classroom, monitoring for academic progress, and referrals for support services at school. The liaison can help negotiate services with the home school district and can advocate for the student and family if academic needs are not being met.

Transition to Post-Secondary Education or Career

Planning for the transition to post-high school life is a big milestone for adolescents. If an adolescent has any identified learning needs, identifying supports for success are especially important. When a student has an IEP at school, the school must provide transition planning and support. Otherwise, the planning is left to the student and family. A student can have accommodations in a post-secondary education setting or work setting based on the American with Disabilities Act if they have had a 504 Plan or IEP in high school.

Scholarship Opportunities

The AYA program coordinator and social workers on the treatment teams keep a list of scholarships that are available for post-secondary education. Please contact your social worker or email the AYA coordinator at AYAOncologyProgram@NationwideChildrens.org for an updated list when you are ready to begin exploring the scholarship options. Some students may also be eligible for support from state office of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.

Fertility & Reproductive Health

Being diagnosed with cancer can be the most overwhelming and stressful time in your life, making it difficult to think about anything outside of the present moment. However, cancer survivors consistently rate fertility as one of their top concerns and have significant regret if they are not informed of options for fertility preservation before starting treatment. This is the reason we created the Fertility & Reproductive Health program at Nationwide Children's. Our team will provide you with information about the risks of treatment to your future fertility, the impact on your reproductive health, and available options for preservation, because we understand how critical this is for the young people with cancer. Learn more about our Fertility and Reproductive Health Program.

Survivorship Program

The Survivorship team provides specialized long-term follow-up care to patients who were treated for a pediatric, adolescent or young adult cancer.  A team of healthcare professionals, who have expertise in Survivorship care, evaluate patients on a regular basis.  Patients in the Survivorship Program will receive personalized monitoring for potential health concerns, frequently called late effects, based on the current Children’s Oncology Group Long-Term Follow-up Guidelines.  Survivors also have the opportunity to talk with the Survivorship team and discuss their previous treatment, its impact on their health and ways that they can stay healthy.

Why is a Survivorship Program so Important?

Over the past 30 years, substantial progress has been made in treating patients with pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer allowing survival rates to continue to climb.  With an estimated 420,000 pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors living in the U.S. we strive to provide care to this unique patient population. As Survivors continue to age, they may develop late effects of their previous cancer treatment(s). Attending appointments with the Survivorship Program on a regular basis can allow for early identification of late effects, and also provide education to decrease the chances of developing some late effects. Late effects after cancer treatment can happen at any time and may occur many years after the completion of treatment.  Late effects can affect growth, learning, vision, hearing as well as the heart, lungs, kidney, liver and bones to name a few.  

What Are the Qualifications?

  • History of a pediatric, adolescent or young adult cancer diagnosis
  • Currently in remission
  • At least 5 years from diagnosis and at least 2 years from the completion of therapy

For more information, please call (614) 722-8917.

Highlights of the Survivorship Program

  • Personalized care for Survivors of all ages including school-aged children, teens and young adults
  • Oncology Treatment Summaries: a personalized record of cancer treatment and follow-up recommendations
  • Access to the patient portal of the Passport for Care® web application
  • Personalized education about late effects and ways to manage healthcare needs
  • Support with school, job or insurance concerns
  • Ongoing communication with primary care physicians and treatment team members. 
  • Referrals to other specialists and outside resources as needed 
  • Opportunities to enroll in research studies that focus on the ongoing needs of Childhood Cancer Survivors
  • Opportunities to participate in AYA and Survivorship events

Our Survivorship Program Team

Regular evaluations by an expert team of the following Survivorship Healthcare Professionals

  • Pediatric Oncologist
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Oncology Nurse
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Medical Social Worker
  • Licensed Genetics Counselor
  • Fertility and Reproductive Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Education Liaison