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Palliative care for young adults is a growing reality in CRC
The incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) is rising among young adults, who remain a vulnerable subset of patients that tends to be diagnosed at more advanced stages of the disease. As early age onset CRC becomes a growing reality, it is critical that psychosocial, palliative and supportive care needs of these patients are addressed alongside clinical and treatment-related needs. Palliative and supportive care in the realm of oncology can be incredibly important in helping patients cope with cancer, and ensure that healthcare related decisions are aligned to their personal values and goals.
Younger patients face a unique set of concerns that distinguish them from the historically older CRC patient population. They may fear or worry about an unlived future or uncompleted life, and the impact of their early death on loved ones. Themes presented from findings from a qualitative analysis of young cancer patients found that while such patients may seek more aggressive cancer treatment, they did not want to know explicitly about their prognosis (disease outcomes), but did express a clear need for more support in accepting their mortality.
Younger patients require attention and resources dedicated to recognizing and managing psychosocial distress, spirituality and existential concerns, uncertainties about fertility and sexuality, genetic counselling, financial guidance, as well as support for academic and professional goals. A multidisciplinary approach that is age-appropriate with tailored palliative and supportive care interventions will be necessary to optimize the health and well-being of patients in this growing demographic.