The Impact of Cancer in Teens and Young Adults

According to a story from The ASCO Post, recent studies suggest that around 70,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with some type of cancer in the US each year. This is an age group of cancer patients that are often overlooked, and it is something that needs to change. While overall survival rates for cancer are increasing for people of all ages in the US, this age group actually lags behind both older adults and children in survival rates. 

There are certain types of cancer that tend to come down on young adults and teens particularly hard, such as medulloblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia; this age group has worse survival compared to children with the cancers. Young adults and adolescents also have worse survival rates for many other types of cancer in comparison to older adults. A greater number of young people are also contracting colorectal cancer.

As far as treatment is concerned, there are usually different guidelines for children and adults; however, there are no separate guidelines for young adults and teens. This age group also has unique quality of life concerns, such as disruptions to education and career, concerns about intimate relationships, issues with fertility and body image, and mental health challenges. 

Lauren Ramer was first diagnosed with cancer (adrenocortical carcinoma) before she was two years old. She would later be diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that increases a person’s risk for cancer. Her brother was also diagnosed with the syndrome and would ultimately die from melanoma and leukemia at age 18. Lauren has also dealt with brain tumors and osteosarcoma.

Lauren says that her experience has forced her to grow up quickly and that it has taught her to be thankful for everyday life.

“I don’t take spending a day with my family for granted.” – Lauren Ramer

She has faced significant disruptions to her education and missed a year of school at one point because of treatment. These disruptions also meant that her social life was out the window as well. Lauren wants there to be changes to treatment for young adults and teens facing cancer, such as greater access to financial support and admission into adult clinical trials; her brother died while trying to get admitted to one.

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