Scientist to Study Resilience in Adolescent and Young Adults During & After Cancer Treatment

Research could lead to more comprehensive treatment for this age group

Evidence suggests that people who undergo cancer treatment as teenagers and young adults have more trouble adjusting to life off treatment than their younger and older counterparts. In fact, these survivors are less likely to attend college or be employed, and often experience challenges with relationships and mental health.

Abby Rosenberg, MD, MS, from Seattle Children's Hospital is a CureSearch Young Investigator exploring resilience in adolescent and young adult cancer patients so that in the future, it can be promoted. She hopes to understand the patient perspective of what it is to be resilient, what adolescents worry about, and how to give those that struggle the right tools to combat the issues they face. Dr. Rosenberg suspects that interventions and the "teaching of resilience" are most needed at times of great transition during cancer treatment, specifically three months into treatment and at the end of therapy. She also suspects that patient and parent perceptions of resilience will vary greatly, and that interventions for the whole family will be necessary.

In the first year of her work, 25 patients and their families from Seattle Children's Hospital were enrolled in the first phase of the Promoting Resilience in Adolescents and Young Adults (RAYA) study and the first and second qualitative interviews took place with all enrollees. Preliminary data from the baseline surveys suggest that AYAs have high levels of psychological distress that may be mediated by personal resilience resources and social support. In addition, despite their diagnosis of cancer, they continue to engage in high-risk behaviors including illicit drugs, alcohol, and unprotected intercourse. These results suggest that skills such as stress-management, goal-setting, and meaning making may promote resilience in AYAs.

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