PYNK on the Rise

More than 40 young patients with breast cancer have accessed the local PYNK program, less than a year after the specialized Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC) program began accepting patient referrals. 

The program, jointly funded by the BRIGHT Run and the Toronto-based Jesin-Neuberger Charitable Foundation, aims to address the unique issues faced by those under age 40 who are diagnosed with breast cancer. 

“I feel it is a very valuable service for this high-needs population,” said Sandra Turner, the JCC’s PYNK program coordinator. “I believe the patients find it very beneficial.” 

“Some have increased needs and reach out more than others,” she said. “I check in with patients at multiple different time points in their treatment.” 

Referrals come through JCC doctors when they have a new breast cancer patient 40 years old or younger. The new patient office also messages Sandra to let her know a new young patient has entered the JCC system. 

A breast cancer diagnosis at any age is very difficult, but for people under 40, there are unique concerns such as: 

  • Body image issues 
  • Sexual dysfunction  
  • Accessing fertility counselling and support 
  • Accessing genetic counselling and education in a timely way 
  • Understanding and managing the impact of the diagnosis on relationships, both existing and future 
  • Managing treatments around emerging careers or education 
  • Talking about the diagnosis and treatment with their children 
  • Finding peer support 
  • Navigating the breast cancer system 

Every year, more than 800 new breast cancer patients arrive at the JCC; of those, approximately 90 are under the age of 40 years. Recent research indicates there is a need to address this patient population’s particular issues. 

Sandra notes that the following areas of concern have been expressed by PYNK patients: financial issues, navigational needs, surgical decision-making, intimacy and sexuality, menopause symptoms, survivorship, and fears of recurrence. 

“I am an added person to clarify and help new young patients navigate the cancer diagnosis and treatments,” she said. 

She believes it’s positive and helpful for the patients to have support through the PYNK program. A patient evaluation survey is in the planning stages. 

The JCC PYNK program will include a research component as well as patient services. A research associate has recently been hired and PYNK program co-lead Dr. Nidhi Kumar Tyagi is preparing submission documents for a research project. 

The JCC’s PYNK program is the third of its kind in Ontario. The other two are in Toronto.