Each year 70,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. The National Cancer Institute reports that this age group is diagnosed with cancer six times more than children aged 14 or younger. But unlike pediatric and older adult cancers, adolescent and young adult survival rates have continuously lagged behind other age groups since the War on Cancer began in the 1970s.
Adolescents and young adults are at a unique stage in their lives. Many are just starting out in life, working towards becoming self-sufficient individuals. They face barriers at every turn from diagnosis to survivorship because of their age. There is no medical home, no standard of care, and no program designed to help the “healthy” young American after a cancer diagnosis,
Adolescents and young adults are the invisible cancer population.
WE ARE THE CRITICAL MASS
Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance is the only full-time advocacy organization in the United States dedicated to transforming the care of adolescents and young adults diagnosed with cancer.
Between 2007 and 2010, LIVESTRONG, the National Institute of Health, and the National Cancer Institute supported the Adolescents and Young Adult Progress Review Group (AYAPRG). They were tasked with identifying the unique needs faced by patients diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 39 years.
Through collaboration and knowledge-sharing, we have identified two basic problems with adolescent and young adult cancer care and delivery:
- First, age is not taken into account when diagnosing or treating cancer patients.
- Second, cancer care and delivery services did not meet the needs of adolescent and young adult cancer patients and survivors diagnosed between 15 and 39 years of age.
Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance was born from the need to fully focus on adolescent and young adult care beyond the AYA PRG. For more than a decade, we have brought together a diverse group of stakeholders – patients, survivors, physicians, providers, researchers, advocates, industry leaders, hospitals, and institutions – who have all seen first-hand the devastation cancer can cause in the life of a young person.
Our goal is to transform adolescent and young adult cancer care and eliminate any barriers they face to survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis.
In 2015, Critical Mass launched Mission Control to help adolescents and young adults take back control of their cancer care. Mission Control is the only comprehensive, nationwide tool designed to connect 15 to 39 year olds with age-appropriate resources from support groups to financial assistance programs.
Using a patented algorithm, our technology has identified more than 500 national programs, 300 county-level programs, and 3800 local programs all designed to help adolescents and young adults survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis.
RAISING OUR VOICES TOGETHER
Critical Mass continues to raise awareness about the unique needs of adolescents and young adults impacted by cancer. We educate everyone from the patient to the policymaker.
The current United States cancer care and delivery system is not designed patients diagnosed between 15 and 39 years of age. Providers make care and treatment decisions based solely on the experiences of older adults or pediatric patients. Even federal assistance programs focus primarily on low-income, elderly, and/or disabled cancer patients. Adolescents and young adults do not qualify for these program due to their age and the need to keep working through cancer treatment.
In 2017, operations were moved to Washington, DC to focus on advocacy full-time. Oncology teams, cancer systems, industry leaders, and government bodies all have a role to play by acknowledging that adolescents and young adults can and do get cancer. It’s time to ensure every American, no matter their age, can both survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis.