Caring for the young adult with cancer

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Young adults with cancer pose unique problems to the nurse due to their age and the disruption of their developmental processes. This paper focuses on the developmental tasks of young adulthood between the ages of 18 and 30 as supported by Erikson and Havighurst. Utilizing two case examples, the problems encountered when facing a chronic illness such as cancer are explored. These include alteration in self-esteem, alteration in body image, disruption of interpersonal relationships and the uncertainty of the future. These young adults experience loss in relation to the changes in daily activities, independence, and self-worth as a result of their disease, its treatments and toxicities.

The nurse often identifies with these patients because of proximity in age and the social loss when a young person is dying. It is difficult for the nurse to remain objective yet be supportive. Psychological and physical nursing care measures to help these patients and minimize the toxicities are included. The problem of coping from a nursing standpoint and dealing with one's own grief is discussed.

Through my own practice as an oncology clinician, I have developed a special interest in young adults with cancer. Their youth and the disruption of their life patterns pose unique problems that this paper will expand upon.

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