Introduction:

Adolescence has been described as a ‘hazardous voyage’ to be negotiated, with a move from reliance on parents to a focus on peers, and peer relationships, with peer relationships noted to be ‘one of the most important features of adolescence’. The addition of a cancer diagnosis significantly disrupts typical TYA development.  This paper examines the current evidence base in TYA cancer care literature, focusing on exploring the impact of peer interaction and support for TYA’s with cancer.

Methodology:

7 key articles were selected following a systematic search of the existing literature using relevant keywords and application of inclusion and exclusion criteria.  A thematic analysis of the articles was conducted, with three main themes emerging: Negative factors, positive factors and support, and comparison of peer interaction and support with healthy peers versus peers with cancer.  Subthemes were produced under Negative factors: 1) Logistical difficulties, 2) Loss, and 3) Guilt; and under Positive factors: 1) Positive social comparison, 2) Social support and connection with others, and 3) Positive psychosocial outcomes. 

Conclusion: 

Whilst literature suggests peer interaction and support can have significant beneficial impacts for TYA’s with cancer, it highlights the existence of both positive and negative factors associated with peer interaction and support. Further research is needed within the area to create a more robust evidence base to inform practice development and psychosocial support of TYA’s.  Future work could concentrate on reducing the negative factors, and promoting the positive factors associated with the impact of peer interaction and support for TYA’s.

Author:

Rebecca Tivey BSc, Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator

Teenage Cancer Trust Unit, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals – Cancer & Associated Specialities, Nottingham. In association with Coventry University.