Promoting Wellness Across the Lifespan for Cancer Survivors (2024-2025)


There are over 18 million cancer survivors in the United States. Over the next ten years, this number is projected to increase to 22.5 million. Although survivors are living longer, this population faces a high symptom burden and significant impacts on quality of life. 

At both ends of the age continuum, survivors face particularly serious challenges. For older cancer survivors, geriatric issues arise, such as high symptom burden, the simultaneous use of multiple drugs and ageism. For adolescent and young adult survivors, sexual and reproductive health are common areas of concern that are often under-addressed. These two vulnerable groups require specialized attention throughout their survivorship journey to reduce physical and psychological symptoms and improve quality of life in the short and long term. It is essential that we approach survivorship care broadly, focusing on the unique needs of survivors across the lifespan.

Project Description

This project team will conduct two research studies targeting well-being across the lifespan among cancer survivors. 

Study 1: Team members will develop a brief geriatric assessment and need-based behavioral intervention protocol for addressing aging-specific concerns and multimorbidity in older adults with lung cancer. The geriatric assessment will be tailored to older patients with lung cancer to identify the unique concerns of this population. To help address the concerns identified by the geriatric assessment, the project team will then develop a behavioral intervention to address patients’ symptom management needs and enhance patient engagement with healthcare specialties targeting aging-specific concerns. Team members will obtain feedback on the geriatric assessment and behavioral intervention protocol through interviews with patient and provider stakeholders. Then, the team will refine the assessment, referral resources and intervention content to create behavioral intervention materials.

Study 2: In this complimentary study, the team will refine and implement an educational intervention to improve female adolescent and young adult (AYA) sexual well-being. This endeavor builds on an intervention developed by a previous team that created materials targeting the unique sexual and reproductive health needs of female AYA cancer survivors. The previous team obtained feedback on the developed intervention content and patient materials through qualitative interviews conducted with female AYA cancer survivors and key stakeholders. The 2024-2025 project team will extend this work by conducting a quality improvement project in the Duke Cancer Institute to pilot the resulting sexual and reproductive health educational intervention with female AYA cancer survivors. Team members will receive feedback from survivors participating in the pilot program through surveys and a semi-structured exit interview to further refine the intervention.

Anticipated Outputs

Geriatric assessment; referral system; behavioral and educational interventions; peer-reviewed manuscripts; poster presentations; disseminated reports

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will include 2 graduate students and 8 undergraduate students with interests in psychology, sociology, nursing, neuroscience, biology (pre-health), global health and gender, sexuality and feminist studies.

Students will have opportunities to engage in literature review, coding, data analysis, writing reports, conducting qualitative interviews and facilitating feedback sessions. All team members will participate in disseminating reports to inform policy and creating patient intervention materials. Graduate students will gain project management experience.

The team will be divided into two subteams, one focused on the geriatric assessment and the other on AYA survivor interventions. Each subteam will be co-led by a faculty member and postdoctoral fellow. 

In Fall 2024, the team will meet on Tuesdays from 4:15-5:15 p.m.


Fall 2024 ¬– Spring 2025

  • Fall 2024: Code data from provider interviews; create reports; contribute to quality improvement project
  • Spring 2025: Create intervention materials; conduct exit interviews


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters

See earlier related team, Promoting Female Sexual Well-Being Through Research and Education (2023-2024).


Image: Duke Cancer Institute exterior

Image: Duke Cancer Institute exterior

Team Leaders

  • Nicole Arrato, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Caroline Dorfman, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Rebecca Shelby, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Juliann Stalls, School of Medicine-Psychiatry: Behavioral Medicine

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Kelly Acharya, School of Medicine-Obstetrics and Gynecology: Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility
  • Gretchen Kimmick, School of Medicine-Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Lisa Massa, Physical Therapy
  • Heidi White, School of Medicine-Medicine: Geriatrics
  • Julia Woodward, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Leah Zullig, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences