Research Article
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Published Online: 7 August 2019

Personal Narrative: Raising Awareness of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors in Similarly Aged University Students

Publication: Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Volume 8, Issue Number 4


Purpose: As part of a programmatic educational initiative, we developed a personal narrative presentation, embedded with evidence-based data, to raise awareness of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) who have been diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15 and 39 years among similarly aged university students. The narrative encompassed the cancer care continuum from signs of the disease through survivorship and incorporated psychosocial aspects of the experience.
Methods: The presenter, diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 25 years in 2007, interwove AYA data with her narrative in a series of 26 invited lectures given over 2 academic years, 2016–2017 and 2017–2018. Students were asked to provide anonymous open-ended feedback. Six hundred thirteen forms were collected and retrospectively dually coded and analyzed.
Results: The majority of students (97%) referenced at least one of the presentation's three objectives: (1) build awareness of the AYA demographic; (2) encourage a personal health care focus; and (3) expand awareness of the far-reaching impact of cancer (i.e., psychological, social, and medical) both during and beyond the treatment phase. Format- and/or content-related suggestions and potential benefits of hearing the narrative also were reported.
Conclusion: The use of personal narrative to raise awareness of the AYA cancer experience in an academic setting is both feasible and effective. Students demonstrated a new or enhanced understanding of AYA cancer and its biopsychosocial implications. We provide evidence to inform the design of awareness interventions directed at similarly aged university students.

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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology
Volume 8Issue Number 4August 2019
Pages: 434 - 441
PubMed: 31038376


Published online: 7 August 2019
Published in print: August 2019
Published ahead of print: 30 April 2019


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Rachel Murphy-Banks, MA
Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
Danielle Blanch-Hartigan, PhD, MPH
Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts.
Lauren Boehm, BS
Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
Pauline C. Hamel, EdD, PT
Bouve College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.
Susan K. Parsons, MD, MRP [email protected]
Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.


This assessment was presented, in part, at the 2017 Global Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Congress in Atlanta, GA.
Address correspondence to: Susan K. Parsons, MD, MRP, Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington St., No. 345, Boston, MA 02111 [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist for the authors.

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