Medication self-management behaviors of adolescents and young adults with cancer


Purpose: Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer are challenged to manage complex medication regimens during treatment. The aims of the study are to (1) describe the medication self-management behaviors of AYAs with cancer and (2) examine the barriers and facilitators to AYAs' optimal use of medications, including their self-efficacy to manage medications.

Methods: This cross-sectional study enrolled 30 AYAs (18-29 years) with cancer who were receiving chemotherapy. Participants electronically completed a demographic form, a health literacy screen, and the PROMIS Self-efficacy for Medication Management instrument. They completed a semi-structured interview to answer questions about their medication self-management behaviors.

Results: Participants (53% female, mean age = 21.9 y) had a variety of AYA cancer diagnoses. Over half (63%) had limited health literacy. Most AYAs had accurate knowledge about their medications and average self-efficacy for managing medications. These AYAs were managing an average of 6 scheduled and 3 unscheduled medications. Oral chemotherapy was prescribed for 13 AYAs; other medications were for prevention of complications and symptom management. Many AYAs relied on a parent for obtaining and paying for medications, used multiple reminders to take medications, and used a variety of strategies to store and organize medications.

Conclusion: AYAs with cancer were knowledgeable and confident about managing complex medication regimens but needed support and reminders. Providers should review medication-taking strategies with AYAs and ensure a support person is available.

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