Alberta Cancer Foundation

Top 10 Things to Know About Cancer in Young People

Cancer in young adults is not the same thing as you’d find in an older population. Even when it’s technically the same disease, it can behave differently in a young adult. Here are 10 things you should know about cancer in the under-40 set.

NOT BUDGING: Cancer survival rates have improved in every age group except the 15-to-40 group, rates of which have not improved since the 1970s. The good news: These troubling stats are generating fresh research.

LATER LOOK: Detection often happens later. Young people are seen to be in the prime of life and can discount symptoms or attribute them to other things, such as sports injuries.

TRIAL & ERROR: Clinical trials sometimes don’t include adolescents and few young adults join.

ISOLATION: Young people with cancer can be isolated in ways that older adults are not. Their peers may not have the frame of reference and life experience to help them support a sick friend or ask for support if they are the patients themselves.

DIFFERENT ANIMAL: Cancer may behave differently, and respond differently to standard treatment in a young adult than in a child or older adult. Further study is needed.

RESOURCE DEARTH: Other challenges for young people are a lack of money and the health-care benefits plans that older adults might enjoy.

FERTILITY FINDINGS: Cancer treatment can mean a loss of fertility.

KILLER: Cancer causes more deaths than other diseases for people between 20 and 39.

LATE EFFECTS: Treatment can save a young person’s life, but can cause damage to the heart and other organs, causing illness later.

FIGURE 8: Eight times as many people between 15 and 40 get cancer as do people under age 15.

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