With $1.8 million in funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Illinois at Chicago will help young breast cancer survivors navigate post-treatment care and survival.
The award will specifically support a new University of Illinois Cancer Center program called Young And A Survivor, or YAAS, which will bring together survivors, families, clinicians, support service providers, researchers and local and national patient advocacy organizations to brainstorm and implement new processes for making sure patients have easy access to resources beyond treatment.
The researchers say that access to these resources can help reduce disparities in survival and quality of life due to race, ethnicity and other social factors among breast cancer survivors and survivors of metastatic breast cancer ages 18 to 44.
Although there are some clinical and supportive services available to address the challenges faced by young and metastatic cancer survivors, the U.S. health care system is fragmented, placing an additional burden on survivors and co-survivors, particularly those in underserved communities whose resources may already be limited."
Tamara Hamlish, research scientist, UI Cancer Center and principal investigator
Hamlish said that young cancer survivors can benefit from many types of resources, from employment and financial counseling to sexual health and addiction medication support.
"Barriers to care persist into survivorship," she said. "Removing barriers and creating an environment of health equity requires strong partnerships across the cancer care continuum, and people and organizations willing to work together to strengthen the safety net and increase capacity for comprehensive survivorship care."
The program's partners will include experts in survivorship, primary and palliative care, physical therapy, sexual health and fertility, disability rights and chronic pain management. Community-based organizations that deliver support services and education for cancer survivors also will be involved.
"Each of the partners already delivers critical support to our target population," Hamlish said. "They understand that coordination and collaboration will expand their reach and their impact.
The program also will include an advisory board composed of young and metastatic cancer survivors from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives who share a common commitment to ensuring that other young survivors do not have to struggle to locate -- or go without -- crucial resources and support services.
"We want each woman to have, from the start, all the resources she may need, so she doesn't have to spend countless hours trying to do it all by herself," Hamlish said.