Patient navigator to help teens, young adults manage cancer diagnosis

GREENVILLE, S.C. – A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering development for any patient. But for adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients, the effects are often magnified as these patients juggle school, careers and families on top of cancer. A dedicated patient navigator is now able to help AYA patients at Prisma Health manage these challenges, while also pursuing and undergoing treatment, thanks to a generous gift from Teen Cancer America and First Citizens Bank.

The gift of over $91,000 will help fund the first position of this kind for the Prisma Health Cancer Institute AYA program, which is in its third year.

“Teen patients have unique social, economic and emotional needs, which can often complicate cancer care,” said Jeff Ward, who is on the board of directors for Teen Cancer America and is chief strategy officer for First Citizens. The bank is a major sponsor of Teen Cancer America and supporter of the Prisma Health Cancer Institute program. “This new patient navigator will serve as an advocate for these young people to help them get through the most challenging experience of their lives. We’re thrilled to be a part of this community and proud to support Prisma Health and Teen Cancer America in this endeavor.”

Stephanie Morris, the new patient navigator, will work with patients ages 15-39 to manage the many aspects of care outside of a patient’s clinical treatment. With patients spanning different ages and stages of life, this work may include navigating fertility preservation, financial assistance, psychosocial support networks and other resources available to patients. Additionally, Morris ensures patients have a comprehensive view of future treatment options, including exploring clinical trials.

“A cancer diagnosis alone is a lot of information for patients to process. When you start to add in factors like fertility planning, mental health needs or clinical trials, understanding these additional resources can be very overwhelming,” said Morris. “I’m here to let patients know they’re not alone and there’s someone in their corner fighting for them, which oftentimes is something they didn’t even know they needed, but are so grateful they now have.”

AYA patients have a particular need for an advocate because they are a unique population that doesn’t fit the model of for other oncology programs, said Dr. Liz Cull, co-director of the AYA program. The teenagers are too old to utilize the playrooms and toys often found in pediatric oncology, but the young adults often need more support than a traditional oncology program offers.

For example, these patients may feel more isolated than their older or younger counterparts due to time away from built-in social circles at work or school. They may also feel sidelined from significant life milestones like graduations or purchasing a home. By addressing these psychosocial concerns through program additions like a patient navigator, AYA co-directors Cull and Dr. Aniket Saha hope that patients will be better equipped to face their medical challenges as well.

“Oncology is so often focused on treatment of the disease itself, but we are developing a holistic approach to AYA cancer care,” said Saha. “When patients feel like their concerns are heard and addressed, they are better prepared mentally, emotionally and physically to face this diagnosis head-on. Stephanie’s work is already a game-changer for our patients, and we’re so thankful to First Citizens Bank and Teen Cancer America for their support in adding this element to our program.”

First Citizens’ sponsorship of Teen Cancer America is its largest-ever corporate philanthropic initiative, which has been implemented across its banking franchise from coast to coast. First Citizens is working with Teen Cancer America to raise funds, build awareness and partner with hospital and medical centers to establish new teen cancer units and programs, like the one at Prisma Health–Upstate.

“It has been a pleasure for Teen Cancer America to work with Dr Saha and his team at Prisma Health,” said Simon Davies, executive director of Teen Cancer America. “We are confident that the addition of an AYA program coordinator will help to move your program forward and allow many more young people to have access to your growing programs and services.”

First Citizens’ Teen Cancer America campaign features the powerful theme, “Open the Door,” reflecting the need to create new teen cancer programs across the country. The theme is based on Roger Daltrey’s recording of a new version of “Let My Love Open The Door,” exclusively for First Citizens and Teen Cancer America. Daltrey is lead singer of The Who and co-founder of Teen Cancer America.

For more information, visit LetMyLoveOpenTheDoor.com, use #LetMyLoveOpenTheDoor or stop by a local First Citizens Bank location.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health, a not-for-profit health company, is committed to excellence in patient care, clinical research and teaching the next generation of medical professionals. Our organization – South Carolina’s largest private employer – was formed when Greenville Health System and Palmetto Health joined together in late 2017, officially becoming Prisma Health in January 2019. With 32,000 team members (including volunteers), 18 hospitals and over 300 physician practice sites, we serve more than 1.2 million patients annually – about a quarter of the state’s population. Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Our cardiovascular, neuroscience, OB/GYN, oncology and orthopedic programs attract patients throughout the region. Also noteworthy are our two renowned children’s hospitals, comprehensive diabetes care and extensive primary care network. Ultimately, we are dedicated to transforming the health care experience for our patients and families, our team members and guests by bringing our purpose to life: Inspire health. Serve with compassion. Be the difference. Learn more at PrismaHealth.org.

About First Citizens Bank

Founded in 1898 and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., First Citizens Bank is one of the largest family-controlled banks in the United States, with offices in 19 states. There are 23 offices in the Upstate. Drawing from over a century of experience serving the needs of its customers, First Citizens focuses on developing long-term relationships and offers a comprehensive array of products and services to individuals, families, businesses and the medical community. First Citizens Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Citizens BancShares Inc. (Nasdaq: FCNCA), which has more than $35 billion in assets. For more information, visit firstcitizens.com. First Citizens Bank. Forever First®.

About Teen Cancer America

Following in the footsteps of Teenage Cancer Trust, the highly developed and successful Teen and Young Adult cancer program in the U.K., Teen Cancer America is designed specifically to help U.S. hospitals and healthcare professionals bridge the gap between pediatric and adult oncology care in America. TCA aims to educate and support hospitals and outpatient facilities in the development of specialized units for the age group from 13 to 25. These units provide sanctuaries where the cancer experience is understood

and the importance of living life through the cancer journey is nourished. TCA also brings together physicians and allied healthcare professionals from pediatric and adult oncology so AYA cancer patients can receive the specialized treatments and support that they need. Founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, Teen Cancer America is supported by ambassdors, including Eddie Vedder, Joan Jett, Nolan Smith, Victoria Summer, The Band Perry and Daniel Berger.

 

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