Cancer is rare in adolescents and young adults (AYA), but these patients have seen little improvement in survival in contrast to most other age groups. Furthermore, participation in research by AYAs is typically low. We conducted a study to examine the feasibility of recruiting a population-based sample of AYA survivors to examine issues of treatment and health outcomes.
Individuals diagnosed in 2007–08 and age 15–39 at the time of diagnosis with acute lymphocytic leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, germ cell cancer or sarcoma were identified by 7 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER) cancer registries, mailed surveys within 14 months after diagnosis and again a year later, and had medical records reviewed.
525 (43%) of the eligible patients responded, 39% refused and 17% were lost to follow-up. Extensive efforts were required for most potential respondents (87%). 76% of respondents completed the paper rather than online survey version. In a multivariate model, age, cancer site, education and months from diagnosis to the first mailing of the survey were not associated with participation, although males (p < 0.01), Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks (p < 0.001) were less likely to participate. 91% of survivors completing the initial survey completed the subsequent survey.
Despite the response rate, those who participated adequately reflected the population of AYA cancer survivors. The study demonstrates that cancer registries are valuable foundations for conducting observational, longitudinal population-based research on AYA cancer survivors.
Implications for Cancer Survivors
Achieving a reasonable response rate in this population is possible, but requires extensive resources.