The HSE has published a plan to improve the care and treatment for adolescents and young adults with cancer, which includes three new specialist units at St James's Hospital in Dublin, University Hospital Galway and Cork University Hospital.

These units will bring together all the relevant experts and allow the collective knowledge, experience and interest to work towards better experiences, better outcomes and better long-term quality of life for this group of patients.

There will also be separate facilities and specialist care teams provided in the new Children’s Hospital when it opens.

The HSE said cancer continues to be the leading disease-related cause of death in the adolescent and young adult population.

Around 200 children are diagnosed with cancer here every year, up to the age of 16.

A further 180 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 25 years are also diagnosed.

According to specialists, while child and older adult cancers have seen a large increase in survival rates, the same however cannot be said for some specific adolescent and young adult cancers.

Today's plan aims to improve that situation and covers the period to 2026.

'Fertility preservation' a major concern

Professor Owen Smith, National Clinical Lead for Children, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancers, National Cancer Control Programme HSE, said that adolescents and young adults are a unique group that deserve special attention.

He said they are a diverse group as defined not simply by their age and distinct biology of their cancer, but in terms of the challenges they face with regards to adequate access to age-appropriate oncological care, representation on clinical trials and short and long-term health and psychosocial issues.

Prof Smyth said this group must deal with fertility considerations, transition to survivorship care, psychosocial support, adherence to treatment difficulties and other dilemmas and problems exclusive to this group of patients.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said "fertility preservation" is a major issue for this age group.

"One of the first questions asked is,’ what are my chances of going on to have children?’"

Prof Smyth also said another concern among this age group is "chronic toxicities" as he explained that people who have been treated for cancer can accumulate toxicities.

He said there is a need to address this and consider target therapies.

The professor said currently the care for adolescents with cancer are designated across eight centres and he said their care has been "lost in time" over the last number of years.

He outlined the changes that will happen after working on a framework for this age group over the last few years.

It includes increasing the number of beds in Crumlin Hospital from 19 to 28 and increasing the age for admission to 20.

"We have also chosen three of the eight designated cancer centres, which will become part of a network, so we will get a really good handle on following these patients and get a consensus on how to treat these patients within this network."