Around 500 young cancer patients each year will have access to a youth-focused, high-tech haven as part of their care at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, in its new ‘You Can’ youth cancer centre funded by Sony Foundation Australia.

Officially opened today by Victorian Premier, the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, Sony Foundation’s ‘You Can’ Centre at Peter Mac aims to set a new international standard for adolescent and young adult cancer care. The ‘You Can’ Centre is the new home for Victoria’s Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Service, ONTrac at Peter Mac.

The centre was brought to life through the vision of Sony Foundation, the charitable arm of Sony Companies in Australia, which funded the centre with a $1.5 million donation to Peter Mac. 

“This new centre will help to ensure young people get the support they need while they are being treated and cared for at Peter Mac,” says Peter Mac Chief Executive Ms Dale Fisher.

“This enables them to continue on with their lives while dealing with cancer diagnosis and treatment which can be acutely traumatic during a person’s formative years.”

Sony Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sophie Ryan says that the long term aim of the Foundation’s ‘You Can’ program is to ensure that Australian adolescent and young adult patients are given the best chance possible in life following their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“This age group are too often lost in the gap in healthcare. Too old for children’s hospitals yet too young for adult wards, and research demonstrates that age-appropriate care for this age group is urgently needed.

“Through You Can, Sony Foundation is building specialised youth cancer centres to provide young cancer patients with a haven within the hospital,” said Sophie.

Located on Level 1 of Peter Mac’s new home within the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre building, the ‘You Can’ Centre was designed with input from young cancer patients.

The ‘You Can’ Centre includes a lounge, fully-equipped kitchen, entertainment rooms and dedicated spaces for study, consultations, counselling, recreation and group activities. Outfitted with the latest Sony technology, the ‘You Can’ Centre provides an area for young patients to continue their life outside of cancer. 

The centre also has four outpatient clinical consultation and interview rooms, a multi-disciplinary video conferencing and meeting room, four inpatient rooms and a six-bed chemotherapy bay ensuring young patients will be treated alongside each other.  

According to Professor Susan Sawyer, Chairman of the Victorian and Tasmanian Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Advisory Committee, “Research shows that of any age group with cancer, it is adolescents and young adults who have the highest unmet needs for clinical care and psychosocial support. The new ‘You Can’ Centre at Peter Mac is part of a sweeping change now being experienced within health services across the world - which are needing to play catch up, fast - to ensure that cancer care becomes better oriented to the breadth of needs faced by young people," Professor Sawyer said.

Young patients with cancer can access the ‘You Can’ Centre from today as part of the ONTrac at Peter Mac caring for patients between the ages of 15 and 25.

One of these patients is 23-year-old Jess Van Zeil who was recently treated for a rare form of melanoma in her eye. She said the new centre provided a much needed escape from the hospital environment.

“It’s amazing. It gives us our own place and makes us feel special,” says Jess, who lives on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

“Our new ‘You Can’ Centre exudes positivity and hope as soon as you step through the doors! It is a space that gives us a break from all the noise of day to day life and allows us to focus on ourselves and meet other young people who can understand what we are going through.”

Jess was diagnosed while she was travelling in South Africa, at age 21. She had five surgeries to remove the cancer and lost her eye after it spread to her eyelid.

She is studying nutrition and now in her final university semester and plans to become a motivational speaker.

Jess says the support from ONTrac at Peter Mac was vital to keeping her studies on-track and her outlook positive.

“When I came in I had 300 different plans all going on at once and some of those have had to be put on hold,” Jess says.

“ONTrac has definitely helped me to adapt and know what I want from life, and to look forward.”