Global recognition of the need to improve outcomes for adolescents and young adults (AYA) with cancer have led to the development of specific oncology programs and services. In Australia, Youth Cancer Services (YCS) are now established across the country. While each service has been shaped by nationally agreed principles, program development has been influenced by local policy and geographic differences. Queensland is a vast state with a widely dispersed population, presenting unique challenges providing coordinated access for youth cancer across this landscape. The Queensland YCS works in a consultative partnership model with primary treating teams, across both paediatric and adult tertiary cancer services. Understanding how cancer services approach challenges and service development can provide guidance for other developing services. In this presentation we describe the goals, development and review outcomes achieved in the service to date.
We reviewed referral data and retrieved state-wide clinical activity from the web-based data system. We compared these data with cancer registry data to identify disparities and areas for service development. The Queensland YCS received referrals for approximately 50% of all AYA patients diagnosed in the state. While patients with more complex disease are more likely to be referred to the service, there were also disparities associated with age and gender.
The service has achieved notable outcomes, however challenges remain. These includes recruitment of appropriately skilled and trained health professionals for this newly developing area of oncology. Additionally, the need to continue to advocate for this relatively small patient group and to promote awareness and understanding of the need for AYA specific services is on-going. With the widely dispersed population of Queensland and the centralisation of services, developing and testing new innovative models of care such as the use of telehealth remains a priority. There is still much work to be done.