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Conference focuses on helping pediatric cancer patients navigate young adulthood

For many, the transition from teen to adult life is full of challenges. But for survivors of pediatric cancer, this particular time in life can present a wide array of questions and concerns. Luckily, there is a growing movement among young advocates and health care providers to build support programs aiming to aid in the transition of care from pediatrics to adult oncology and primary care.

A recent conference held at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center brought together experts in survivorship and young patients seeking advice in navigating the jump from pediatrics to adult care.

Held Feb. 7 in the Aresty Auditorium, Rise to Action-Los Angeles (RTA-LA) welcomed young adult cancer survivors and their families to talk about the next stages of cancer care and life as a survivor.

According to David R. Freyer, medical director of the LIFE Survivorship and Transition Program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, who presented at RTA-LA, most childhood cancer survivors are healthy, have no serious medical problems resulting from the disease or their treatment and enjoy a very good quality of life.

However, the possibility of late effects from pediatric cancer treatments represents a continuing need for follow-up care into adulthood for the approximate 300,000 childhood cancer survivors in the U.S.

Freyer pointed to proper adult care and survivorship follow-up as important early detection tools of any late effects.

“Survivor care is increasingly available and improving,” said Freyer. “It’s something that needs to occur. Survivors need to embrace it and start planning early. There’s a lot that needs to move with the patient. When you hit 18, it’s no longer appropriate to receive adult care in a pediatric environment.”

More than 125 participants, which included survivors and their families and friends, attended the day-long conference made up of a series of plenary sessions and breakout discussions. Topics included health insurance, political activism, navigating care, fertility, employment and other issues that survivors of pediatric cancer may encounter as they transition into adulthood.

At the end of the day, participants were treated to a closing reception and musical performance by Valerie Sun. Sun is a 27-year-old survivor of aplastic anemia who also gave an inspirational presentation during the conference about her struggles with cancer and how she found strength through advocacy. She graduated from USC in 2002.

The conference was organized by the Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy, a non-profit organization, and co-sponsored by the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and others.

Conference focuses on helping pediatric cancer patients navigate young adulthood

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