The week of April 4th – 10th is National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week.
Approximately 5% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States are young people between the ages of 15 and 39, according to the National Cancer Institute. Currently, the most common types of cancer for young adults are Brain, Breast, Cervical, Colorectal, Germ Cell Tumors, Leukemia, Liver, Lymphoma, Melanoma, Sarcomas, Testicular, and Thyroid.
Because cancer in young adults isn’t as common, most causes for cancer are less environmentally-related. Most times young adults, teens, and children develop cancer that is not dependent on outside factors that have affected their gene mutations, but have simply inherited the gene mutations from a parent, according to the American Cancer Society. Though certain cancers in young adults cannot be prevented by your environment, there are a variety of known causes for others to watch out for, as listed from the American Cancer Society:
- “Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds can increase the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.”
- “Infection with some types of human papilloma virus (HPV) can increase the risk of cervical and some other cancers.”
- “Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can raise the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, and some other cancers.”
- “Treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy for a childhood cancer can increase the risk of getting a second cancer, especially leukemia, later on.”
While cancer at any age or stage of life is a terrible thing, young adults face specific challenges in their battle with cancer. As young adults, many men and women are developing their independence, starting new things (college, jobs, first home, marriage), and learning about the world in new ways. According to LIVESTRONG.com, “Young adults with cancer may need to depend on others for care and finances at a time when they want to be independent” adding to their fears.
In addition, young adults most likely don’t have as much experience with the health care system at this age, have limited financial resources, and may not recognize cancer as quickly as an older adult, according to cancer.net.
All of these changes and issues can cause serious anxiety for young adults. Many young adults begin to feel lonely in their battle with cancer, and can isolate themselves from others. It‘s highly encouraged for adults at this age to participate in cancer support groups in order to stay connected and find the encouragement they need to move forward. There are a variety of networking groups to be a part of, such as the Ulman Cancer Fund for Youth Adults, that provide on-site or remote patient navigation services and meetings for young adults to engage with other cancer patients.
Though cancer in young adults is more rare, it’s extremely important for young adults who think something might be wrong, to discuss issues with their doctor. The earlier the cancer is detected, the better one’s chances are of recovery. Young adults with cancer experience unique challenges and fears, and it’s important to raise awareness and encourage young adults to find the help and support systems they need to battle this disease with their full mental, physical, and emotional strength.
Young adults, you are not alone. In addition to a variety of other groups and services out there, the Harrisburg Area YMCA provides their LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program for any adult ages 18 or older who is living with or beyond cancer treatment. Through this program, participants can reclaim their health and well-being, as well as connect with others and develop lasting relationships.
–Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator