National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week
Young adult cancer refers to any form of cancer that occurs in individuals between the ages of 18 and 39. This group of individuals is sometimes referred to as “AYA” (adolescent and young adult) cancer patients.
Uhapo is honored to recognize this first week of April as Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Awareness Week. Cancer in young adults can present unique challenges, including delayed diagnosis, treatment-related fertility issues, and financial burdens. Young adults with cancer may also face social and emotional challenges, as cancer can impact their personal and professional lives at a time when they are establishing their independence.
So, what are these most common types of cancer in young adults that are mostly linked with lifestyle and environmental factors –
- Lymphoma – Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, which is a part of the immune system. It develops when white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are responsible for fighting infection, become abnormal and grow uncontrollably.
There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells.
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma includes a wide variety of lymphomas that do not have Reed-Sternberg cells.
Symptoms of lymphoma can include enlarged lymph nodes, fever, night sweats, weight loss, and fatigue.
Treatment for lymphoma typically involves a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and sometimes stem cell transplant, depending on the type and stage of the disease.
- Breast cancer – Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the breast cells. It is the most common cancer among women worldwide, although it can also occur in men. Breast cancer can develop in different parts of the breast, such as the ducts, lobules, or connective tissue.
The common symptoms of breast cancer can include a lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area, changes in the size or shape of the breast, changes in the skin texture of the breast, such as dimpling or puckering, nipple discharge, or a nipple that turns inward. However, some people with breast cancer may not experience any symptoms, which is why regular screening is important for early detection.
Risk factors for breast cancer include being female, older age, a family history of breast cancer, certain genetic mutations, exposure to estrogen, having dense breast tissue, obesity, and a history of radiation therapy.
Treatment options for breast cancer depend on the stage and type of cancer, as well as other individual factors such as age and overall health. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapy. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used for effective treatment.
- Sarcomas – Sarcomas are a type of cancer that originates from connective tissues such as bones, muscles, cartilage, and fat. They are a rare type of cancer, accounting for only 1% of all adult cancers and 15% of all childhood cancers.
Sarcomas are divided into two main categories: soft tissue sarcomas and bone sarcomas. Soft tissue sarcomas can occur anywhere in the body, while bone sarcomas specifically affect the bones.
The exact cause of sarcomas is not known, but certain factors such as exposure to radiation, certain genetic conditions, and certain chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of developing sarcomas.
Symptoms of sarcomas can include pain, swelling, and a lump or mass at the site of cancer. Treatment for sarcomas typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may also be used.
- Melanoma – Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment (melanin) in the skin. It is the most serious type of skin cancer and can spread quickly to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early.
Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but it most commonly occurs on the trunk, legs, arms, and face. It often starts as a new mole or an existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color.
The exact cause of melanoma is not known, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds is a major risk factor. Other risk factors include having fair skin, a history of sunburns, a weakened immune system, and a family history of melanoma.
Early detection of melanoma is important for successful treatment. The ABCDE rule can help identify potential signs of melanoma:
A – Asymmetry: one half of the mole is different from the other half.
B – Border: the edges of the mole are irregular or blurred.
C – Color: the mole has uneven colors, with shades of brown, black, or pink.
D – Diameter: the mole is larger than 6mm in diameter.
E – Evolving: the mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Treatment for melanoma depends on the stage and location of cancer. Surgery is the primary treatment for early-stage melanoma, and other treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy may be used for advanced stages. Sun protection and regular skin exams are important for preventing melanoma and detecting it early.
- Thyroid cancer – Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that affects the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck and produces hormones that regulate metabolism. Thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon, but its incidence has been increasing in recent years.
The exact cause of thyroid cancer is not known, but risk factors include a family history of thyroid cancer, exposure to radiation, and certain genetic conditions.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include a lump in the neck, hoarseness or difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, swollen lymph nodes, and pain in the throat or neck.
Treatment options for thyroid cancer depend on the type and stage of cancer but may include surgery to remove the thyroid gland, radioactive iodine therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells, and hormone replacement therapy to replace the hormones that the thyroid gland would normally produce. In some cases, chemotherapy or targeted therapy may also be used.
- Colorectal Cancer – Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or rectal cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the colon or rectum, which are part of the large intestine. It is the third most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, but risk factors include a family history of the disease, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in red and processed meats, and age.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating, and unintended weight loss.
Treatment options for colorectal cancer depend on the stage and location of the cancer but may include surgery to remove the affected part of the colon or rectum, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used.
- Brain and spinal cord tumors – Brain and spinal cord tumors are abnormal growths of cells in the brain or spinal cord. These tumors can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Symptoms of brain and spinal cord tumors vary depending on their location and size. Common symptoms include headaches, seizures, difficulty with balance or coordination, changes in vision or hearing, weakness or numbness in the limbs, and changes in personality or behavior.
The exact causes of brain and spinal cord tumors are not fully understood, but some risk factors have been identified, such as exposure to ionizing radiation, certain genetic disorders, and a family history of brain tumors.
Treatment for brain and spinal cord tumors typically involves surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. The specific treatment approach depends on factors such as the type of tumor, its location, and the overall health of the patient.
Receiving Supportive care services, such as counseling, nutritional support, palliative care, physical therapy, social work, support groups, and pain management, can also be an important part of a young adult’s cancer care. Also, it is necessary to work with your healthcare team to identify the supportive care services that are most appropriate for your individual needs.
On this National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week, we’re grateful for the opportunity that this week presents to shine a light on the unique challenges that teen and young adult cancer patients and survivors face.
We invite you to join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to raise awareness for this often-overlooked group of young people, who have fought the challenges of cancer with courage and strength.