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Age-Specific Patient Navigation Preferences Among Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer

Journal of Cancer Education
Samantha T. Pannier, Echo L. Warner, Brynn Fowler, Douglas Fair, Sara K. Salmon, Anne C. Kirchhoff



Patient navigation is increasingly being directed at adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients. This study provides a novel description of differences in AYA cancer patients’ preferences for navigation services by developmental age at diagnosis.


Eligible patients were diagnosed with cancer between ages 15 and 39 and had completed at least 1 month of treatment. Between October 2015 and January 2016, patients completed semi-structured interviews about navigation preferences. Summary statistics of demographic and cancer characteristics were generated. Differences in patient navigation preferences were examined through qualitative analyses by developmental age at diagnosis.


AYAs were interviewed (adolescents 15–18 years N = 8; emerging adults 19–25 years N = 8; young adults 26–39 years N = 23). On average, participants were 4.5 years from diagnosis. All age groups were interested in face-to-face connection with a navigator and using multiple communication platforms (phone, text, email) to follow-up. Three of the most frequently cited needs were insurance, finances, and information. AYAs differed in support, healthcare, and resource preferences by developmental age; only adolescents preferred educational support. While all groups preferred financial and family support, the specific type of assistance (medical versus living expenses, partner/spouse, child, or parental assistance) varied by age group.


AYAs with cancer have different preferences for patient navigation by developmental age at diagnosis. AYAs are not a one-size-fits-all population, and navigation programs can better assist AYAs when services are targeted to appropriate developmental ages. Future research should examine fertility and navigation preferences by time since diagnosis. While some navigation needs to span the AYA age range, other needs are specific to developmental age.

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