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The impact of a cancer experience during emerging adulthood (18–25 years of age) is an under-studied phenomenon, with research on young people typically focussing on children or adolescents. Needs-based research on this population is even scarcer. This study sought to ascertain the most commonly-unmet needs of emerging adults with cancer, in various stages of time-since-treatment, and to investigate links to psychological functioning.
Using an earlier version of a needs-based questionnaire, presently under development, as well as additional items developed specifically for this age group, the ten most unmet needs were determined for 63 emerging adults in each of the following three groups: those on or within one year since treatment; those between one and five years since treatment; and those beyond five years since treatment. Psychological functioning was measured by the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS-21).
On average, participants rated 17.7 of the 132 needs as unmet. The 10 most unmet needs for each group generated a distinct picture of how needs change as time-since-treatment increases. For those at or within one year since treatment, there were a number of unmet needs directly related to health care provision and the hospital experience. For those whose treatment was more than one year previous, the most unmet needs were more focussed on emotional/psychological issues, particularly related to survivorship and life direction. Positive correlations were found between the number of unmet needs and levels of anxiety and stress.
Significance of results:
The results of the present study provide quantitative needs-based information about emerging adults with cancer, in the context of their treatment situation. This enables health care providers to better support the emerging adult with cancer in ways that are age-appropriate and time-sensitive. The persisting levels of unmet needs and psychological distress beyond five years since treatment underscore the importance of long-term follow-up and support.
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