BOSTON - Adolescents and young adults from around New England who are coping with the effects of cancer or blood diseases have a new ally in the fight against their illness thanks to the Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Tufts Medical Center. The clinic, which began accepting patients between the ages of 18 and 39 who have completed active treatment for cancer in January, was dedicated on April 24 with more than 170 people in attendance. Congratulatory resolutions were offered by state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester.
Each year, roughly 70,000 individuals in this adolescent and young adult (AYA) age range are diagnosed with cancer—a number almost three times higher than those under the age of 15. Reid Sacco, who was from Lynnfield, became part of this group when he was diagnosed with sarcoma in his late teens. During the course of his treatment, Reid and his family experienced first-hand the frustration of trying to find age-appropriate care for teens and young adults, particularly those patients suffering from cancer or blood diseases. Since Reid’s passing in 2005, the Sacco family has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funding to improve care for AYA patients. The clinic has been made possible in part thanks to funds raised by Reid’s Ride, an annual 28-mile fundraising bicycle ride that takes place north of Boston. This year the ride will be held on July 21st.
“Cancer is a difficult disease at any age, but young adults face particular challenges,” explained Susan Parsons, MD, MRP, founding director of the Clinic who is board certified in pediatric hematology/oncology. “Being treated alongside young children or much older adults can feel very alienating for these patients, and receiving a life-threatening diagnosis just as one’s adult life is beginning is very unsettling.”
Adolescents and young adults are also often diagnosed late because symptoms are not recognized as quickly. In Reid Sacco’s case, his cancer was originally thought to be a sports injury. AYA patients also have access to fewer clinical trials than other age groups.
The Reid R. Sacco AYA Clinic opened its doors in January 2013 and is currently serving patients who have experienced cancer as children. These patients have unique needs in relation to understanding and communicating their medical history. The clinic plans to expand to include young adults with blood diseases and to cancer patients in active treatment. All of these patients require follow-up care, many of them throughout their lifetime.
The Clinic offers innovative services to meet the long-term follow up needs of AYA patients. A specially-trained nurse produces a condensed, portable medical history distilled from large stacks of medical records, and peer navigators provide resources to patients to tackle age-appropriate issues typically faced by all AYAs.
“Even when treatment is successful, cancer and blood diseases have lifetime effects – they never goes away as part of someone’s medical history. I help patients develop and rehearse an ‘elevator speech’ they can use in medical and social situations to briefly and accurately explain the effects of their diseases on their present state of health,” Dr. Parsons said.
Patients who are interested in receiving follow-up care from the clinic can call (617) 636-5168 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Tufts Medical Center
Tufts Medical Center is an exceptional, not-for-profit, 415-bed academic medical center that is home to both a full-service hospital for adults and Tufts Medical Center. Conveniently located in downtown Boston, the Medical Center is the principal teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is the full-service children's hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal pediatric teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is affiliated with the New England Quality Care Alliance, a network of more than 1,800 physicians throughout Eastern Massachusetts. For more information, please visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org.