Transitioning to Adult Health Care

Dava Szalda, MD MSHP
Last Modified: May 13, 2017

Why transfer to an adult care provider?

Transitioning to an adult health care provider is often difficult for pediatric cancer survivors and their families as they have been through a huge experience with their primary oncology team. However, as survivors grow into young adults, it is important that they see providers who can care for them long term into adulthood.

Survivors should ask their medical team when they anticipate that their transition to survivorship and adult care will occur. While this usually occurs in the young adult years, the actual first visit with a new provider may occur at different ages for different patients depending on a number of factors such as when they were treated for their cancer, what types of treatment they had, what their risk of long term effects are, what other medical problems they currently have and their other transitions to adult life (like where and when they are transitioning to college, work or independent living).

Some survivors may follow up with a cancer center or long term cancer follow up program and others may follow up with a primary care provider. Talk to your primary team about what is right for you.

How to Transition to Adult Care

No matter when or where transfer occurs, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Have a copy of your treatment summary (diagnosis and treatments received) and your survivorship care plan (document containing recommended follow up from your oncologist). Not all adult doctors may be familiar with childhood cancer therapy so having this information and being an advocate for yourself is a good thing.
  • All survivors should continue life long follow up care both for general health and to screen for long term effects of cancer therapy.  
  • Ask for recommendations for providers from your medical team, family and friends. Finding a “good fit” is important.
  • Be honest! Tell your new provider about new symptoms, concerns and health habits.
  • Continue to use your resources. Just because survivors become young adults does not mean they cannot use their supports including parents, friends, significant others or support groups to ensure they are taking care of their health as best they can. 

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