Seattle Children’s using video to reach teens with cancer

The renowned hospital is sharing patients’ stories through a new YouTube series documenting candid discussions on a range of pertinent topics.

If you’re a teen diagnosed with cancer, nobody knows what to say to you.

Especially in hospital literature.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the medical director of the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital, wanted to change that.

She and colleagues worked together to create a video series on the hospital’s YouTube channel, “Good Times and Bald Times.” During this project, a group of teens and young adults gathered to talk about their experiences with cancer, from treatments to hair loss.

Even if they might feel like they are the “only ones” battling cancer, about 70,000 Americans ages 15 to 39 are diagnosed annually, according to Seattle Children’s.

Johnson, a cancer survivor, says teens consume information differently from adults. The hospital sought to ditch static, printed material and speak to them directly; video seemed the best option.

The discussion group for these videos was facilitated by Teen Talking Circles, a nonprofit organization that offers teens “a safe place to tell their truth.”

Eight patients, ranging in age from 15 to 23, gathered weekly for six weeks to talk about cancer. With little adult intervention, the teens would support one another and share their feelings.

The AYA Oncology Program developed 12 videos from a total of 16 hours of recorded sessions. Most videos run two to four minutes and provide helpful information to teenage cancer patients. Teens were asked to sign HIPAA release forms, and the videos were put on YouTube, Seattle Children’s website, Twitter, and Facebook.

The teens talk about topics ranging from dealing with friends and family, school, and fertility.

“This generation is a connected group that relies heavily on technology for their information,” Johnson says. “We wanted to use new media to provide education and psychosocial support to other cancer patients. It’s important for these teens and young adults with cancer to know that there is a peer out there that understands what they are going through and that support is available.”


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