Lancaster University

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Teenage Cancer Patients Speak Out

03/29/2007 11:48:01

Dr Anne Grinyer
Dr Anne Grinyer

Teenage cancer patients in the Morecambe Bay area have been sharing their experiences in a book by a Lancaster University academic.

Each day six teenagers in the UK are diagnosed with cancer and Dr Anne Grinyer’s book “Young People Living With Cancer” looks at how they can be treated in a setting geared to their age group.

She said: “It can make a difference between young people agreeing to treatment and not agreeing to treatment. It can transform the experience of that young person if they feel there’s some understanding of their needs at that life stage.”

Dr Grinyer, from the Institute for Health Research, said that cancer in adolescents is different than in children and the elderly.

“Teenagers are at a crucial stage beginning to be independent but after a cancer diagnosis they can lose any vestige of independence as they often have to go back to their families to be looked after as if they are infants.

“Relationships are more fragile at this age; they may not be in a stable long term relationship and may be scarred from the treatment or lose their hair and think nobody else will love them again. Peer pressure is also fundamental at this life stage as is being accepted by a peer group.”

She carried out around 50 in-depth interviews with teenagers, parents and health professionals over a two year period.

“If teenagers find themselves on a children’s ward with cartoons on the walls, they hate it. And if they are on a ward with elderly people it can be very depressing.

“They need to be with their peer group in an environment aimed at young adults. This could be a ward with beauty therapists, make-up and a fashion show or a relaxation room with a plasma screen, mixing deck and computer games. They can also be helped to reintegrate and keep up with their education by taking exams on the ward.”

Her research was supported by the George Easton Memorial Trust set up in memory of the eponymous Lancaster University student who died from cancer in 1999 at the age of 23.

The artwork for the book cover is by Lancaster University graduate Dan Savage, who himself survived adolescent cancer and now runs a successful design business.

Sue Morgan of St James’s University Hospital in Leeds said: “This book should be compulsory reading for all healthcare professionals who work with young people with cancer and especially for professionals who may, at some stage, meet a solitary young person with cancer.”

“Young People Living With Cancer” by Anne Grinyer is published by the Open University Press at £21.99.