Helping young women in distress with cancer

Helping young women live well after a cancer diagnosis is the aim of a new program being developed by members of the Women’s Wellness Research Group at Griffith University.

Led by Professor Debra Anderson from Griffith’sSchool of Nursing and Midwifery and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the 12-week nurse-led intervention provides a structured eHealth lifestyle program designed to support women aged 20-40 years with cancer, and minimize lifestyle-related health risks.

“Younger women with breast, blood and gynaecological cancer need targeted and tailored health promotion programs as they can experience some unique health concerns after cancer treatment,” says Professor Anderson, who speaks this week in the lead up to International Nurses Day (Saturday 12 May).

“Younger women with cancer can experience some specific concerns associated with these types of cancer. Depending on the age group, these may include fertility concerns, treatment-induced menopausal symptoms, weight gain, body image issues and concerns about sexuality and intimacy.

“We found that women in this age group reported reduced physical, social and emotional wellbeing and almost half reported significant concerns about sexuality and partner intimacy.

Unmet needs

“Younger women with cancer often report unmet needs and health education, and health promotion programs designed specifically for them is limited. This may make this population particularly vulnerable to anxiety and depressive symptoms.

“Women’s distress associated with their unmet needs can influence treatment adherence, survival, quality of life, and feelings of satisfaction with care received. The effects on family and the broader community are also significant.

“It is timely that we are expanding the program with the aim of trialing it nationally.

“By providing an intervention that taps into the specific needs of younger women specifically, we anticipate greater uptake of the intervention, improved lifestyle behaviors, better quality of life and increased self-efficacy.”

Breast and gynaecological cancers accounted for around 28% and 10% of all new female cancer cases in 2017, of which around 6% occurred in women aged under 40.