PURPOSE The diagnosis of cancer is often prolonged in teenagers and young adults (TYA). There may be lessons in improving this from international comparisons. However, international studies are complex and so we conducted a pilot study to examine the key barriers to large-scale research in this field. METHODS We provided translated questionnaires covering key aspects of presentation and clinical management within 60 days of a confirmed cancer diagnosis, to patients 13-29 years of age inclusive, to their primary care physicians and to the cancer specialists managing their cancer. We conducted descriptive analyses of the data and also the process of study implementation. RESULTS For our pilot, collecting triangulated data was feasible, but varying regulatory requirements and professional willingness to contribute data were key barriers. The time of data collection and the method for collecting symptom reports were important for timely and accurate data synthesis. Patients reported more symptoms than professionals recorded. We observed substantial variation in pathways to cancer diagnosis to explore definitively in future studies. CONCLUSION Focused research upon the mechanisms underpinning complex cancer pathways, and focusing that research upon specific cancer types within TYA may be the next key areas of study.