On Thursday 12 April, the live Facebook stream of Humanitas took place, dedicated to the AYA project, the special path conceived by Humanitas for adolescents and young adults facing cancer. Guests included Alexia Bertuzzi, oncologist at Humanitas Cancer Center and Head of AYA, and Stefania Spadoni, a patient participating in the project.
“This project is dedicated to patients aged 16 to 39 who have had onco-hematological pathologies, such as lymphomas, leukemia, sarcomas, germinal tumors, and who are followed here in Humanitas. In this age group, patients’ needs are those typical of the youthful-adult age: not only clinical needs, therefore, but also psycho-social needs, which become even more important at this time of life and in the presence of the disease. Humanitas’ experience is one of the first in Italy, recently inaugurated; there have been at least two other experiences: one in Aviano and one at the Istituto dei Tumori in Milan, but both were born in the pediatric field,” explained Dr. Bertuzzi.
“I have been a patient of Humanitas for some years and I have known the project thanks to my doctors; I was immediately enthusiastic about this project because I understood its potential and the great support that was offered to patients of my age. In addition to having a correct diagnosis and the right treatments, in fact, we need more general support, both clinically and socially,” added Stefania Spadoni.
An international project
“AYA is an international project and just recently the second World Congress dedicated to onco-hematology in adolescents and young adults was held. The attention to this group of patients was born several years ago, there is in fact a large clinical, psychological and social gap in this group because these patients represent a kind of no man’s land, an age enclosed between pediatrics and oncology of adults, and just following this international trend we are trying to bridge the gap so that these children are followed in the most appropriate way.
In Humanitas, an AYA clinic has been set up in which we try to meet all the clinical and psychological needs of patients. There is a dedicated multidisciplinary team, composed of different figures with specialists in endocrinology, cardiology, physiotherapy, hematology, fertility, radiotherapists, psychologists, and nutritionists. The issue of fertility is very sensitive and it is not so standardized in the world. Instead, it is important to refer young patients to the Fertility Centre, as we do in Humanitas with the Fertility Centre. With this project we aim to approach the patient in his entirety and in his future life,” said Dr. Bertuzzi.
This attention was also highlighted by Stefania Spadoni, which was missing at the time of her diagnosis (which, as she said, took place at the age of 28 in a small provincial hospital), in order to preserve this aspect in a young woman, who may want to become pregnant in the future.
The Special Room and a look into the future
Precisely for the patients of the AYA project a Special Room has been created, close to the onco-hematology department, a space in which they can meet, chat, relax (also thanks to a TV and a PlayStation), a space in which meetings related to the project take place and free courses designed specifically for children including cooking classes, photography, theater, and writing.
“With the AYA project we expect to create specific attention on all these aspects and improve the daily lives of children in hospital and at home, also trying to have an impact on the Italian scientific community to offer a better service to these patients who are in such a sensitive age group,” concluded Dr. Bertuzzi.
Watch live Facebook stream with Dr. Bertuzzi and Stefania Spadoni: