Where should teenagers with cancer be treated?


      Cancer in teenagers is relatively uncommon. Few health professionals in oncology are familiar with caring for teenagers, although most would acknowledge them as a characterisable clientele with specific needs different to those of others with cancer, whether younger or older. Many of those diagnosed with cancer between 13 and 20 years of age will be cured, often after intensive, toxic and life-changing treatment. The provision of the highly specialised medical and nursing care needed for cancer treatment must go alongside meeting the specific needs associated with this age group, an age of transition from childhood to adulthood. Care provision for teenagers must therefore address the treatment, information, educational, social and other support requirements of teenagers and their families. This must be done through the work of a highly specialised, experienced multidisciplinary team. A dedicated Teenage Cancer Unit (TCU) provides an appropriate environment in which teenagers may feel comfortable and from which such a multidisciplinary team can function. Such units cannot provide every aspect of a teenager's care throughout their cancer journey so must work in harmony with other agencies, particularly those in the community. TCUs are most successful when they are of sufficient size to ensure a critical mass of staff and experience. Not all teenagers with cancer will be treated on a TCU and other models that can meet both medical and age-specific needs are required.


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