Interdependent functions of communication with adolescents and young adults in oncology


BACKGROUND: Communication is central to patient-centered care in adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer. Previously, we developed a functional communication model from perspectives of parents whose children had cancer. No prior studies have established a framework for the breadth of communication functions in AYA oncology. We aimed to identify these communication functions from AYAs' perspectives. METHODS: Semistructured interviews with 37 AYAs with cancer aged 12-24 years at diagnosis from two pediatric centers during treatment or survivorship. We performed thematic analysis, using a functional communication model as an a priori framework, but remaining open to novel themes. RESULTS: We identified eight interdependent functions of communication in AYA oncology that were consistent with those previously identified among parents: building relationships, exchanging information, enabling family self-management, making decisions, managing uncertainty, responding to emotions, providing validation, and supporting hope. AYAs held varying preferences for engagement in different communication functions. While some AYAs preferred very passive or active roles, most AYAs described an interdependent process of communication involving them, their parents, and their clinicians. Parents often served as a conduit and buffer of communication between the AYA and clinician. CONCLUSIONS: Interviews with AYAs provided evidence for eight interdependent communication functions in AYA oncology. Many AYAs described the integral role of parents in communication regardless of their age. Clinicians can use this framework to better understand and fulfill the communication needs of AYA patients. Future work should aim to measure and intervene upon these functions to improve communication experiences for AYAs with cancer.

Publication Title

Pediatric blood & cancer