What is AYA?

AYA stands for Adolescents and Young Adults. Our AYA Program is for those ages 15-39 years old. The AYAs we support are those who have a cancer diagnosis themselves, are grieving the loss of a loved one, or who have a family member or friend with a cancer diagnosis.

In 2020, there were approximately 89,500 new cancer cases and 9,270 cancer deaths in adolescents and young adults (AYAs) ages 15 to 39 years in the United States. These patients are often grouped with younger or older patient populations, which masks important differences in cancer distribution, tumor biology, and survivorship.

AYAs are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage because of both delays in diagnosis due to the rarity of cancer in this age group and higher uninsured rates and higher prevalence of aggressive disease.

AYA patients also have a high risk of long-term and late effects, including infertility, sexual dysfunction, heart problems, and future cancers.

“Theories of human development suggest that, although all cancer patients experience a common set of life disruptions, they experience them differently, focus on different issues, and attach different levels of importance to different aspects of the experience depending on the time in life at which they were diagnosed. During the critical developmental transition from childhood to adulthood, older adolescents and young adults, in particular, have typical concerns with establishing identity, developing a positive body image and sexual identity, separating from parents, increasing involvement with peers and dating, and beginning to make decisions about careers or employment, higher education, and/or family.”

Hot Takes

  • Our AYA program is for those facing a diagnosis, mid-treatment, post-treatment, dealing with recurring or metastatic disease, entering end-of-life, friends and family of a person with cancer, and/or those grieving a loss. 
  • At Gilda’s Club, we shift and change what we offer based on the needs in our community at any given moment. 
  • While offerings may change, we always offer a mix of support groups, health and wellness classes and education, and social events.  
  • We provide resources for financial support, sexual health and fertility, assistance in connecting with individual therapists, and much more.
  • All support groups are led by licensed mental health clinicians.
  • Other workshops and classes are led by volunteers who are experts in their field.
  • For more information about Gilda’s Club’s AYA  programming, email Megan Ingram Forshey, Program Manager, or call 615.329.1124.