UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Peer Support Needs and Preferences for Digital Peer Navigation among Adolescent and Young Adults with Cancer: A Canadian Cross-Sectional Survey Bender, Jacqueline L.; Puri, Natasha; Salih, Sarah; D’Agostino, Norma M.; Tsimicalis, Argerie; Howard, A. Fuchsia; Garland, Sheila N.; Chalifour, Karine; Drake, Emily K.; Marrato, Anthony; McKean, Nikki L.; Gupta, Abha A.


Adolescents and young adults (AYA) with cancer desire peer support and require support programs that address their unique needs. This study investigated the need for, and barriers to, peer support and preferences for digital peer navigation among AYA. A cross-sectional survey was administered to AYA, diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 15–39, at a cancer center and through social media. Descriptive summary statistics were calculated. Participants (n = 436) were on average 31.2 years (SD = 6.3), 3.3 years since-diagnosis (SD = 3.8), and 65% (n = 218) were women. Over three-quaters (n = 291, 76.6%) desired peer support from cancer peers, but 41.4% (n = 157) had not accessed peer support. Main access barriers were: Inconvenience of in-person support groups (n = 284, 76.1%), finding AYA with whom they could relate (n = 268, 72.4%), and finding AYA-specific support programs (n = 261, 70.4%). Eighty-two percent (n = 310) desired support from a peer navigator through a digital app, and 63% (n = 231) were interested in being a peer navigator. Participants indicated a greater need for emotional (n = 329, 90.1%) and informational support (n = 326, 89.1%) than companionship (n = 284, 78.0%) or practical support (n = 269, 73.6%) from a peer navigator. Foremost peer matching characteristics were cancer-type (n = 329, 88.4%), specific concerns (n = 317, 86.1%), and age-at-diagnosis (n = 316, 86.1%). A digital peer navigation program was desired by over 80% of a large Canadian sample of AYA and could potentially overcome the barriers AYA experience in accessing peer support. The design of a peer navigation program for AYA should consider the matching characteristics and multidimensional support needs of AYA.

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