Wilmot Cancer Institute, Melissa's Living Legacy to Collaborate on Services for Teens, Young Adults

August 07, 2014

 Beginning in September, Wilmot Cancer Institute and Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation will collaborate on an innovative program to help teens and young adults navigate life during and after cancer treatment.

The new program will expand services for patients ages 13 to 29 for whom cancer presents heightened challenges. Through Wilmot’s Judy DiMarzo Cancer Survivorship Program, an Adolescent-Young Adult (AYA) Survivorship Specialist will connect patients to the wellness and support programs at Melissa’s Living Legacy.

Nearly 70,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. At high risk for disease recurrence, secondary cancer and serious health problems as a result of their treatment, they often do not get appropriate follow-up care. In addition, emotional, social and socioeconomic challenges including depression, anger and age-specific issues like fertility further point to the need for specialized focus on this population.

“Our teens and young adults face cancer at a time in their lives when making decisions and critical choices is a relentless challenge,” says Louis “Sandy” Constine, M.D., director of the Judy DiMarzo Cancer Survivorship Program. “All of this is tremendously complicated by both the threat of cancer and the side effects of its treatment, not to mention the disruption of their lives.”

An employee of Wilmot Cancer Institute, the AYA Specialist will have responsibilities at both the Institute and Melissa’s Living Legacy. Working closely with patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital and Wilmot Cancer Institute, the AYA Specialist will help educate teen and young adult patients about follow-up care and help them adhere to their personalized survivorship care plan. The Specialist will also coordinate peer-support and nutrition, fitness and vocational guidance programs at Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation.

“Managing the transition from patient to survivor presents many unexpected obstacles for our teens and young adults,” says Lauren Spiker, who founded Melissa’s Living Legacy in 2001 after the death of her 19-year-old daughter Melissa. “This collaboration will alleviate many of those challenges by providing a continuum of support from point of diagnosis, throughout treatment and into survivorship.”

This new effort reflects both the growth in the Judy DiMarzo Cancer Survivorship Program and in Wilmot’s vision to work more closely with community groups to meet the needs of patients and survivors.

“Collaboration allows us to do more than either of us could do alone,” says Jonathan W. Friedberg, M.D., M.M.Sc., director of Wilmot Cancer Institute. “We would like to see this effort serve as a model of community partnerships focused on patients with cancer.”

For more information about the Adolescent-Young Adult Cancer Survivorship Specialist services, contact Alicia Coffin, M.S.N., R.N., O.C.N, lead program coordinator with the Survivorship Program at Wilmot Cancer Institute at (585) 275-6956.

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The mission of Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation is to provide a comprehensive continuum of resources and support to enhance the quality of life for all impacted by adolescent and young adult cancer. For more information, contact Lauren Spiker at (585) 563-6221.

The Wilmot Cancer Institute is the Finger Lakes region’s leader for cancer care and research. As part of UR Medicine, Wilmot provides specialty cancer services at the University of Rochester Medical Center and at a network of satellite locations. Wilmot Cancer Institute is a component of Strong Memorial Hospital. The Institute also includes a team of scientists who investigate many aspects of cancer, with an emphasis on how best to provide precision cancer care.

For Media Inquiries:
Lydia Fernandez
(585) 276-5788
Email Lydia Fernandez