Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

What do adolescents and young adults want from cancer resources? Insights from a Delphi panel of AYA patients

Purpose: Cancer treatment programs and community-based support organizations are increasingly producing information and support resources geared to adolescent and young adult patients (AYAs); however, systematically-derived knowledge about user preferences for these resources is lacking. The primary purpose of this study was to generate findings from informed AYA cancer patients that resource developers can use to create products consistent with AYAs’ expressed preferences for information and support. Methods Utilizing a modified Delphi technique, AYA cancer patients identified barriers to optimal AYA cancer care, cancer resources that address their needs, and specific characteristics of cancer resources they find helpful. The Delphi panel consisted of a convenience sample of 21 patients aged 18–39 years, who were diagnosed with cancer between ages 15–39 and were no more than 8 years out from cancer treatment at the time of the study. Survey data were collected in three consecutive and iterative rounds over the course of 6 months in 2015. Results Findings indicated that AYA patients prefer resources that reduce feelings of loneliness, create a sense of community or belonging, and provide opportunities to meet other AYA patients. Among the top barriers to optimal cancer care, AYAs identified a lack of cancer care providers specializing in AYA care, a lack of connection to an AYA patient community, and their own lack of ability to navigate the health system. Participants also described aspects of cancer information and supportive care resources that they believe address AYAs’ concerns. Conclusion Information derived from this study will help developers of cancer information and support resources to better reach their intended audience. From the point of view of AYA cancer patients, optimal cancer care and utilization of information and support resources requires that cancer support programs foster meaningful connections among AYA patients. Results also suggest that patient resources should equip AYAs with practical knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the health system and advocate for themselves. Given patient interest in social media, future research should further investigate optimizing online resources to serve the AYA cancer population.