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A national approach to improving adolescent and young adult (AYA) oncology psychosocial care: The development of AYA-specific psychosocial assessment and care tools

  • Susan Palmer (a1), Pandora Patterson (a2) and Kate Thompson (a3)

Age-based screening tools and assessment measures are crucial to the provision of best practice care for adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients. Unfortunately, there are limited psychosocial tools developed for this age group and pediatric or adult measures are often distributed with the assumption that they are “close enough.” We describe a collaborative Australian project that strives to improve what currently exists for the psychosocial assessment of and planning for the 15–25-year-old age group.


Using the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's Distress Thermometer and the HEADSS Assessment as a foundation, the tools were developed in consultation with Australia's leading AYA clinicians, AYAs currently undergoing medical treatment, and a group of AYA survivors through a process of discussion groups and clinical interviews.


The result is the first available AYA-specific screening tool, care plan pro forma, and psychosocial assessment measure developed for use within the oncology sector. These new tools will assist clinicians working with this population group to support psychosocial coping during active treatment and promote healthy post-treatment survivorship.

Significance of results:

Over time, further validation procedures will add to the veracity of the measures. Until then, these measures represent the best available in Australia. They highlight a clinically recognized minimum standard of care that all young cancer patients, regardless of treatment location, have the right to receive.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Pandora Patterson, CanTeen Australia L11, 130 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. E-mail:
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CanTeen and Cancer Australia (2009). National Service Delivery Framework for Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government, Cancer Australia.
Community Affairs References Committee (2005). The Cancer Journey: Informing Choice. Report on the Inquiry Into Services and Treatment Options for Persons with Cancer. Canberra; Australia: The Senate Community Affairs References Committee.
Goldenring, J.M. & Cohen, E. (1988). Getting into adolescent heads. Contemporary Pediatrics, 5, 7590.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) (2011). Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for Distress Management: Version I.2011. Fort Washington, PA: National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
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Palliative & Supportive Care
  • ISSN: 1478-9515
  • EISSN: 1478-9523
  • URL: /core/journals/palliative-and-supportive-care
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