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.