Cork University Hospital (CUH) will host one of three new national cancer units for teens and young adults announced by the HSE.
Between 180 and 190 people aged from 16 to 25 are diagnosed with cancer annually. Young cancer survivors quoted in a framework report by the National Cancer Control Programme said they are happy to see these extra supports.
Ellen Merrins said there is “stigma and lack of public awareness” around the challenges facing young people, with most people only noticing the immediate physical problems.
“What people don’t get to see is the long-term physical, psychological and life-altering challenges that all cancer survivors will inevitably face,” she said.
The units will be based in Cork, University Hospital, Galway, and St James Hospital in Dublin. National Clinical Lead for Children, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer, Professor Owen Smith, said these centres were chosen from the eight adult cancer centres to bring specialists working with young people together in fewer locations.
Young people aged 16 to 25 are currently treated in adult centres, with some also going to other hospitals offering oncology or haematology. The new units will work in a ‘spoke and hub’ collaboration with CHI at Crumlin as hubs for now with the National Children’s Hospital taking over when it opens.
This means more concentrated access to specialists including oncologists, haemato-oncologists and age-appropriate psychosocial support. Local care will also continue where possible.
“Adolescent and young adult patients constitute a unique group that deserves special attention,” he said. The centres will offer support around fertility and being a cancer survivor as well as medical care and clinical trials, he said.
Fertility specialists are preparing National Guidelines on Fertility Preservation through this Framework. The Merrion Fertility Clinic already partners with CHI at Crumlin offering sperm and oocyte (immature egg) cryopreservation.
“Currently, 23 samples have been stored for boys, and eight samples have been stored for girls,” the report states.
A palliative care group including LauraLynn Children’s Hospice is working with the HSE to improve paediatric end-of-life care outside of hospitals.
Health minister Stephen Donnelly said: "The Framework for the Care and Support of Adolescent and Young Adults with cancer in Ireland is intended to be a starting point for setting the direction of adolescent and young adult cancer services."