Cancer in adolescents is relatively rare and few professionals specializing in Oncology are prepared to face an adolescent with cancer even if the majority (Pediatricians and Adult Oncologists) admit that this age group would benefit from dedicated assistance. The adolescent-aged cases show an incidence of 270 new cases/year per million inhabitants in the 15-19 year range and 352/million in the 20-24 year range, greater than the incidence observed in children 0-14 year olds.
The spectrum of malignancies that occur in adolescents is distinctive when compared to those that occur in young children and those that occur in older adults. The embryonal cancers that dominate among young children (e.g., neuroblastoma, Wilms’ tumor, retinoblastoma, ependymoma, and hepatoblastoma) are very uncommon among 15-24 year olds. Similarly, the epithelial carcinomas
of adults (e.g., lung, breast, colon) rarely occur in 15-24 year olds. While some types of acute leukemias and CNS cancers are shared with both the older adult and the young childhood populations, the 15-24 year old group experiences high rates of a set of tumors (including germ cell tumors, Hodgkin’s disease, bone cancers, thyroid cancer and malignant melanoma) that are relatively characteristic of the adolescent/young adult age group.
The our objective was to develop a project within an Italian clinical care and support unit for adolescents diagnosed with cancer (Youth Area in Aviano Cancer Institute) to improve healthcare delivery. Along the model of international hospital units (Teenager Cancer Units), we attempt to define certain parameters for organizing adequate clinical care units for the target patients. Even though further psychological research findings are needed, in absence of a universally accepted strategy for adolescent patient management, an effort to find a better logistic hospital placement, develop collaborative project planning mechanisms, and share strongly multidisciplinary therapeutic options seems to currently offer the most promising results.