Honouring Jackie’s legacy by better supporting the unique needs of AYA cancer patients
Jackie was a passionate and caring person, who lived with an open mind and a loving heart. As a young adult with cancer, Jackie experienced firsthand the unique challenges that affect cancer patients in this age group. With the goal of addressing the unique needs of adolescents and young adults (AYA) with cancer, we are starting the Jackie Aziz AYA Program at Cedars, a new initiative within the MUHC Cancer Care Mission. This initiative will also be generously supported by Sarah’s Fund at Cedars.
There is a gap in cancer care that is often referred to as the AYA gap. This refers to 15 to 39-year-old cancer patients who may not clearly fit into the pediatric or adult healthcare systems. While cancer survival rates have improved for children and older adults over the last two decades, survival rates for AYA patients have lagged behind.
A cancer diagnosis can create a sense of isolation from friends and family who may not understand what patients are going through. For the AYA population, this is even more pronounced as it comes at a time when they are finding their way in the world, completing education, launching careers, becoming independent, forming adult relationships, and making plans for their future. Family planning and fertility are often significant concerns of AYA patients. Oftentimes, AYA patients are forced to delay pivotal milestones to focus on their health.
Our goal is to honor Jackie’s legacy by better supporting the unique needs of AYA cancer patients. The Jackie Aziz AYA Program at Cedars began with the following two positions, and will continue to raise funds and grow over time:
1. Patient Care Navigator
The Patient Care Navigator helps the patient navigate their cancer journey and coordinate clinical care. It addresses the psychosocial and well-being issues unique to adolescent and young adults living with cancer, from diagnosis to treatment, to long-term survivorship, and where needed, supportive and end-of-life care. The Patient Care Navigator also establishes strong collaboration with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Cancer Care Nursing to best support patients as they transition from the pediatric to the adult hospital.
2. Clinical Research Associate
The Clinical Research Associate addresses the need for improved awareness and facilitates access to research and clinical trials for AYA patients.
AYA patients are underrepresented in clinical trials. Our aim is to reduce barriers to research and care, improve disease outcomes, and enhance quality of life for patients.
Jackie wrote, “Effecting positive change is all I ever wanted to do”. The mission of the Jackie Aziz AYA Program at Cedars is to effect positive change for young patients and their loved ones impacted by cancer.