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Young Cancer Survivors Struggle to Resume Social Activities

Strains on finances, relationships and life plans take a toll, researchers find

depressed girl

TUESDAY, Aug. 1, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Many young cancer survivors have trouble resuming their social lives.

Researchers studied 215 cancer survivors between 14 and 39 years of age who completed questionnaires about their social functioning at four, 12 and 24 months after cancer diagnosis.

About 1 in 3 reported low social functioning throughout the study period.

The researchers said the difficulties might stem from the transition from treatment to "off-treatment survivorship, a time fraught with challenges." Those challenges include the negative impact of their disease and treatment on finances, body image, work plans, relationships with a spouse or significant other and plans for having children.

Survivors with low scores on social functioning also had high levels of distress.

The study "highlights the need to screen, identify and respond to the needs of high-risk adult-young adolescent patients at the time of diagnosis and then monitor them over time," said study co-author Brad Zebrack, a professor of social work at the University of Michigan.

"They are likely the ones most in need of help in managing work, school and potentially problematic relationships with family members and friends," he said in a university news release.

Research suggests young adult cancer patients benefit from support programs that include similar-age survivors, the study authors said.

"They do not find being in a support group with 'people my grandma's age' to be all that helpful," lead author Olga Husson said in the news release. Husson is a researcher at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

The study was published online recently in the journal Cancer.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer survivorship.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 2017
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