What is the YA Program at Dana-Farber?

Monday, October 15, 2012
By, Rhian Waterberg

The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (YAP@DFCI) was developed in response to regional, national, and international recognition that young adults diagnosed with cancer face unique emotional challenges and have social and emotional needs that differ from older adults and children. The Young Adult Program employs an interdisciplinary staff to address the unique concerns of young adult patients at Dana-Farber. The Young Adult Program began formally offering programs in February 2011. Along with social and emotional support programs, YAP@DFCI offers comprehensive mental health services with staff members who specialize in the care and support of young adults.


The Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute strives to minimize the emotional burden of cancer during young adulthood by providing developmentally appropriate mental health services, supportive programs, education and peer support.

2011 Events

Art & Healing: Held at local art museums, this series provides opportunities to discover and discuss our human connection with art in the company of other young adults coping with cancer.

Sexual Health & Intimacy: This educational workshop provided a safe space for YA community members to discuss healthy sexual practices and intimate relationships.(Co-sponsored with DFCI’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer)

Rock ‘n’ wRite: Designed and co-facilitated by a YAP community member, this music and song-writing workshop provided practical information about personal expression through popular music, empowerment through art, and highlighted the power of sharing one’s cancer experience.

Being both Parent and Patient:  An informational session and discussion about parenting before, during, and after cancer treatment. This session was open to young adult patients along with their partners and co-parents. (Co-sponsored with DFCI’s Family Connections)

Outward Bound: Outdoor adventure activities that challenge each individual to accept new physical challenges while inspiring personal confidence and connection with a supportive YA community.

Feelin’ Good When You Don’t Feel Well: Co-facilitated by a certified nutritionist and certified physical therapist, this workshop addressed common concerns such as food and symptom management, exercise within your personal limits, organic v. conventional, and how to incorporate healthy activities into your daily life.

“I’m Too Young for This! Conference”: In its eighth year, the “I’m Too Young for This!” conference provides young adults and their care networks a supportive, educational, and empowering day of workshops, presentations, and forums that cover the wide range of experiences, concerns, lessons-learned, and challenges facing young adults coping with cancer.


2012 Events

Annual YA Cancer Conference: Saturday March 24, 2012. A slightly new and evolving iteration of the “I’m Too Young for This!” conference, this year’s conference features keynote speaker and founder of Imerman Angels, Jonny Imerman. Attend workshops and forums that cover common YA topics such as: building and maintaining intimate relationships, life as a YA caregiver, self-advocacy, and understanding genetic testing and counseling.

Educational Workshops: In 2012, we hope to cover topics such as self-advocacy skill-building, spirituality, managing your support system, and relaxation techniques.

Peer Discussions: Provide a safe space to speak with peers about similar and differing experiences with cancer.  These discussions are held both at DFCI and at locations in the greater Boston area.

YA Advisory Council: Still in its formational phase, the young adult advisory council is intended to be both advisory and action oriented. The council focuses on strategic planning and implementation to help maintain the Young Adult Program’s presence as a sustainable, effective program for young adults coping with cancer.

*Decisions regarding workshop and discussion topics are guided by the expressed needs and suggestions of our YA community.


Young Adult Program Website

With six months of development behind us, we recently launched a website exclusively for young adults at DFCI:  www.dana-farber.org/yapThis website was created with a group of young adult patients who reviewed site content and provided feedback and new ideas.  The site provides information about coping with cancer, links to online resources (like mAss Kickers!), information about DFCI mental health services, and social networking opportunities.

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