‘Young and Strong’ Program Addresses Multiple Needs of Women in 40s and Younger Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

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“Young and Strong” is an exportable model of a program developed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to address the significant challenges facing young women with breast cancer. The new model has been designed to “serve young women with breast cancer who are receiving care outside of the comprehensive cancer setting, particularly in places where resources are limited,” according to an article by the program’s designers and leaders in the Journal of Oncology Practice.1

Founded in 2005, the Program for Young Women With Breast Cancer “helps patients and providers to address issues that are more common among young women with breast cancer, including concerns about fertility and reproductive options, genetics, psychosocial matters, and other treatment and survivorship issues,” the authors noted. Over the years, the program has served more than 1,600 women aged 42 and younger in clinics and hundreds more through patient education and support programs.

Comprehensive Program “To our knowledge, this is the first such comprehensive program developed to target the multiple and complex issues associated with a breast cancer diagnosis in young women,” the authors wrote. The lead author, Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, serves as the program’s Director, and the multidisciplinary advisory group is composed of patient advocates; providers from medical oncology, breast surgery, radiation oncology, nursing, and social work; and translational, psychosocial, and population-based investigators.

“From a clinical perspective, the program serves as an umbrella for all young patients with breast cancer and their providers, helping each woman to access optimal comprehensive care in an environment that provides extra support, enhanced medical services (eg, easily available genetics and fertility preservation consultations), and education,” the authors stated.

Exportable Version

The new exportable version, which was being pilot tested when the article was being written, will “provide Web- and print-based materials to patients and the oncologists who care for them,” the authors explained. After diagnosis, patients receive a booklet addressing the unique issues facing young women with breast cancer and access to a comprehensive website that offers additional information, videos, questions to ask their doctors, and a list of resources.

“Clinicians are provided baseline and follow-up care checklists and disease management algorithms; written clinical care descriptions; and video presentations on fertility, early menopause, pregnancy after breast cancer, psychosocial concerns (eg, coping with anxiety, dating, and dealing with young children), genetic factors, body image, and sexual functioning,” the authors continued. “Our intervention materials incorporate information about these issues and how to help manage them, as well as how improved doctor-patient communication may promote better quality of care. A dedicated e-mail address is included so that oncologists who focus on the care of young women with breast cancer at our center can respond on a daily basis to case queries, requests for additional support, and questions about the latest data regarding the care of this population. By targeting both the patient and provider, we hope to optimize the care of young women with breast cancer.” ■

Disclosure: This effort has been supported by an Improving Cancer Care Grant from ASCO, funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Program staff members also work closely with the Survivorship Program and the Lance Armstrong Foundation Center of Excellence at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


1. Partridge AH, Ruddy KJ, Kennedy J, et al: Model program to improve care for a unique cancer population: Young women with breast cancer. J Oncol Practice, May 22, 2012 (early release online).