You are here

Services and supports for young cancer patients highlighted during AYA awareness week

A UNIVERSITY student who was supported on her cancer journey with specialist services for teenagers and young adults has praised the supports on offer.

This week is Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Awareness week, April 5th – April 11th.  AYA Services provide specialised care to patients aged between 16 and 24 year old who face unique challenges in their journey.  

Nora Goaley (22) from Corofin in Galway has attended the AYA service at Galway University Hospitals (GUH) throughout her cancer journey.

“In April 2023 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and entered the AYA service. The support of this service has meant so much to me. If I needed any advice or any help understanding my diagnosis even more, I was able to contact the service and that was such an amazing help to me and my family.

“The service also supported me through college and ensuring I was able to do my exams at a later date. Having this support allowed me to carry on being able to do everything I wanted to do and have somewhat of a normal life, as well as balancing this diagnosis,” she explained.

AYA services provide a holistic approach to young patients living with and beyond cancer. The AYA service carries on beyond chemotherapy into the time when patient enter remission. Support is provided by a group of physicians, specialised nurses, social workers and psychologists to help the young person get back to their peer groups, get back to school and to help them with any potential long-term side effect such as depression.

Patricia Gleeson, Clinical Nurse Specialist in the AYA Cancer Service at GUH supports young patients and their family and works alongside their treating teams, whether that is medical oncology, haematology, palliative care, radiation oncology or surgery. 

“I access the needs of that young person at different point times throughout their cancer journey. So for example, if there is need for academic or employment support, or if there are changing levels of distress for that young person, we support them through this.  

“I understand the unique and different needs of young people with cancer and I am available to support those needs throughout their cancer journey,” she added.

Dr Amjad Hayat, Consultant Haematologist and AYA Cancer Clinical Lead for Saolta said: “These specialised services that have come into place allow us to provide a tailored service to each individual patient, taking into account their disease, their family situation and their social and psychological challenges that may have affected them at the time.”   

The specialised support provided by GUH cancer team has also been commended by Nora’s Mum, Stephanie Goaley: “The AYA service has been excellent. Once my daughter Nora got diagnosed, the team came on board, we had back-up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we never felt alone. There was always someone there to help us, give advice and information.

“If Nora came to the Emergency Department, we had a direct contact number for the AYA service and they would come and remove Nora to a safer environment. I couldn’t have asked for anymore help between the services, consultants, doctors and nurses. I was so happy with the team Nora has and I cannot thank them enough,” she added.

Professor Owen Smith, HSE National Clinical Lead for Children, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancers at National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), said: “There have been significant strides made in the NCCP Children Adolescent and Young Adult (CAYA) Cancer Programme.  This includes the ongoing investment in the three Adolescent and Young Adult cancer units at St. James’s, Cork University Hospital and Galway University Hospital and the appointment of key staff, aligned with the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026.

“This underscores our commitment to providing tailored, comprehensive care for AYA cancer patients, made possible through the collaboration of multidisciplinary teams, cancer charities, and the resilience of patients and their families."

Nora concluded: “When you originally begin the journey, you think you have a very long road ahead, and nothing will ever get back to normal again.  But when you go through it and come out the other side, it’s definitely worth everything, all the appointments, scans and blood work. You realise how much more important life is and how you want to fulfil things even more.”

Please see Nora’s journey here:

The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
University Hospital Galway (UHG)