Adolescent and young adult cancer patients face a unique set of challenges. They may be completing their education, applying to college or pursuing job training. They’re often beginning their careers and may be starting a family or planning for one. Cancer makes all of these more difficult and complicated.
The MD Anderson AYA Program serves patients age 15-39+, whether in active treatment or post-therapy survivorship. Through our comprehensive AYA Clinic, the program can help these patients with coping, relationships, fertility, school, career goals, long-term health, quality of life issues and more.
Outside the clinic, the program offers support groups, the Young Adult Advisory Council, a scholarship program and an annual young adult retreat. We also partners with internal and external groups to host social and educational events for AYA patients, regardless of where treatment was received.
AYA patients and caregivers interested in connecting with our community are invited to join our private Facebook group. The group is open to all members of the AYA community, whether they were treated at MD Anderson or not. Please note that all three screening questions must be answered to join the group.
AYA Program Slideshow
AYA Clinic Services
The AYA Clinic serves patients age 15-39+. Patients can be newly diagnosed, in active treatment or post-therapy survivorship.
Patients in active treatment still receive care through their primary care center. The AYA Clinic collaborates and consults with these primary treatment teams to address all aspects of our patients’ lives.
At their first AYA Clinic visit, patients see a medical provider, social worker, and vocational counselor. During this visit they discuss the patient’s challenges and concerns and help the patient access various services at MD Anderson and beyond. Patients also have the opportunity to see a nutritionist and be screened by a genetic counselor.
It can be hard for teens and young adults with cancer to manage the disease’s emotional and social challenges. AYA Clinic patients get personalized recommendations and referrals to internal and external psychosocial and supportive services. These include:
- Counseling to help with a variety of concerns including adjustment to life during/after cancer, anxiety, depression, trauma, self-esteem, body image, sexuality and intimacy, etc.
- Assistance identifying financial and support resources
- Educational/vocational assessments and resource linkage
- Opportunities for peer support (see more in the AYA Support Programs section)
Many treatments that save patients’ lives have short and long-term consequences, including possible infertility for both males and females. Not enough AYA patients are educated about this risk. Even fewer are provided with referrals for sperm banking or egg/embryo preservation. The AYA Clinic offers a thorough fertility risk assessment. The clinic also provides counseling on fertility options, their cost, and accessing insurance benefits. Referrals to reproductive specialists for fertility preservation are also available.
Some patients can pass a predisposition to developing cancer down to their children. Their siblings and parents may also have the same predisposition. The AYA Clinic has a genetic counselor who reviews patient records to identify those who might benefit from genetic testing. As we learn more, we can also develop guidelines for evidence-based screening and surveillance to benefit future patients. Learn more about genetic counseling and testing.
Every cancer patient needs a plan for long-term cancer screening, surveillance and prevention. This plan should be created at the time of diagnosis. The AYA Clinic provides every individual with a survivorship care plan that takes into account the patient’s diagnosis, treatment, lifestyle and behaviors, and other health conditions. We also identify services at MD Anderson that can help improve patients’ quality of life. These services include physical and therapy, integrative medicine, pain management, the Fatigue Clinic, supportive care and more.
In December of 2019, the AYA Program held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of our new clinic space. The area was designed with feedback from the Young Adult Advisory Council. It includes a dedicated AYA waiting room, a large television screen that promotes upcoming AYA events, plenty of charging stations for electronics, and redesigned counseling and exam rooms. Special thanks to Teen Cancer America for donating a signed guitar from world-renowned rock band The Who.
AYA Support Programs
The AYA Program hosts virtual and in-person activities each month and collaborates with Dan’s House of Hope and other organizations on several of them. Most activities are open to all AYA patients regardless of where treatment was received. View the monthly social events calendar.
- Expert Q&As on topics like exercise, mental health after treatment, nutrition, etc.
- Cooking classes
- College & Career Conference
- Watercolor painting
- MD Anderson Boot Walk
- Book club
- Netflix Parties
- Music series featuring song exchanges, songwriting/re-writing, etc.
- Weekend retreats sponsored by Kendra Scott
MD Anderson’s has two AYA support groups: one for AYA caregivers (spouses, parents, siblings, friends, etc.), and another for AYA patients (whether newly diagnosed or well into survivorship). Both are open to everyone regardless of where treatment was received.
These groups are currently meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays at 6:30 pm via Zoom.
For more information, email Wendy Griffith at email@example.com.
Launched in 2009, the Young Adult Advisory Council (YAAC) includes young adult patients and survivors ages 18-39 along with MD Anderson staff members. The YAAC’s mission is to improve the experience of care for young adults and their loved ones. It works with hospital staff and families to develop, implement, and evaluate policies, programs and services that impact young adults.
Over the past decade the group has:
- Given presentations on quality AYA oncology care at institutional meetings and national conferences
- Created a “Q&A for young adults with cancer” book
- Provide feedback to assist AYA researchers
- Attended events to raise awareness about AYA oncology needs
- Collaborated with AYA non-profits on events and programs benefitting AYA patients and loved ones
- Provided feedback on a variety of institutional and community projects.
The AYA Program supports and encourages patient participation at the following conferences.
Young Adult Survivorship Conference
The Young Adult Cancer Survivorship Conference is a free annual event for young adult patients, caregivers and family members. Healthcare providers are also welcome. The conference is hosted by MD Anderson and welcomes attendees regardless of where they received treatment.
Texas Adolescent & Young Adult Oncology Conference
The Texas AYA Oncology Conference is a healthcare provider-focused conference that welcomes patients are caregivers. It serves as a platform for collaborative, interprofessional discussion of AYA oncology care; sharing of best practices within and between Texas-based and national AYA programs; and discussion of innovations in research, interprofessional practice, and medical and psychosocial care of AYAs with cancer. The conference is held each Spring and rotates between Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.
The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Program Scholarship is designed to provide funding to support the educational goals of MD Anderson cancer patients and survivors. Learn more about the scholarship.
In the News
Breast cancer survivor: Treatment at MD Anderson is helping me get on with my life
Head and neck cancer survivor sings the praises of music therapy
Young adult caregiver: What my wife’s cancer experience taught me
Young adult cancer patients find help and hope with Adolescent and Young Adult Program
The AYA Program's administrative hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Phone: Nerissa Maldonado, program coordinator, 713-745-4451