Psychosocial Cancer Support

Many adolescents and young adult (AYAs) childhood cancer survivors face disease- or therapy-related late effects, which limit their participation in various areas of daily life.

AYAs are often left alone in our health care system, and many worry about their ability to cope with long-term sequelae, and some are even lost to follow-up. Therefore, in the present study, a targeted aftercare program was developed and evaluated with the goal of facilitating three important “life skills”: (1) self-perception, (2) social interaction and conflict management, and (3) self-conscious communication of support needs.

A total of n = 13 participants (19.2–30.2 years, mean age 22.8 years) completed a 3-day aftercare seminar, at the end of which each participant wrote a reflection letter (“letter to my future self”), elaborating on observed effects of the seminar, applicability of the given information in daily life, and the direct impact of the seminar on their individual circumstances.

The reflection letters were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. All target life skills were mentioned in the reflection letters. The participants reported individual benefits from the program especially with respect to self-perception and self-confidence, giving and taking feedback, and acceptance of personal strengths and weaknesses.

Moreover, the feeling of “not being alone” was associated with the survivors’ experience of emotional and social support. This evaluation highlights the potential of a one-weekend aftercare seminar to address important life skills that are known to positively influence health behaviour in AYAs. The detailed description of the seminar can serve as a basis for making this kind of aftercare accessible to other people in similar circumstances.