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Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2008 Oct-Dec;20(4):389-93.

Adolescents with cancer: how can we meet their specific needs in developing countries?

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Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Tygerberg Hospital and Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, Cape Town, South Africa.


Cancer occurring in adolescents (10 to 19 years) is more than twice as common as cancer in children but has received less attention in South Africa. In the process of becoming adults, adolescents undergo major physical, psychological, and social changes. They manifest specific behaviors and have special emotional needs. Malignant disease and its treatment have the potential to disrupt seriously the processes of adolescence, whereas the emotional instability and the risk-prone behavior characteristic to this age may jeopardize the success of the treatment. A further disruption in the management of these patients, in South Africa, is the need to refer children over the age of 13 to the adult medicine service. Research done worldwide on transferring of adolescents with cancer and other chronic diseases to adult health care underscores the need for a structured and individualized transition. Whilst, in some developed countries, adolescent cancer units already function for years, the extent of the problem has not yet been evaluated in most developing countries, where cancer registers do not even exist. A few simple measures might improve substantially the outcome of cancer in adolescents in the developing world.

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