What is the long-term prognosis for adolescents and young adults who survive a bout with cancer, but live in medically-underserved areas of Indiana? A team of researchers at IU School of Medicine has received a $100,000 grant to examine how best to deliver cancer survivorship healthcare to those age groups in rural southwest Indiana.
IUSM says survival rates have drastically improved over the past four decades, but those young adults are at a very high risk of developing chronic medical and mental health concerns.
The researchers say their medical needs can differ depending on age.
“We want to make sure these individuals receive the care and support they need throughout their lives,” said Dr. Kara Garcia, who is a grant recipient and an assistant professor of radiology at the IUSM campus in Evansville.
Garcia, along with Dr. Tammy Sajdyk who is a professor of clinical pediatrics, are co-principal investigators of the grant. They will explore cancer survivors between the ages of 15 and 39 who live in rural areas to understand what kinds of barriers impact their access to healthcare and overall wellness.
“This topic is especially important for rural and medically underserved populations, such as those in Evansville and the surrounding region, who may not have access to the resources available in larger cities,” said Garcia.
About a dozen medical students from Evansville will be working on this project in the next year, including Brittany Ritzman Gass, a second year IUSM student at the Evansville campus.
“By connecting with this younger generation of cancer survivors, we are learning about the impact survivorship can have on early life, whether that’s getting through high school and college, or starting a career after having cancer,” said Ritzman Gass.
The research team will begin gathering preliminary data and doing a literature review before they start connecting directly with young cancer survivors in spring of 2023.