Cancer in Young Adults: The Age Shift

Cancers in Young Adults Age 25 to 45

Are Cancers in This Group on the Rise?

It use to be that whenever CANCER was mentioned, it was done so “hush” and it would be about an older neighbor, co-worker, uncle, cousin, etc.,  It was also not unusual to know of a young child (usually less than 10 years of age) diagnosed with some form of leukemia, sarcoma, or some form of childhood cancer.

However, I’ve been asked about this perceived (real or imagined) paradigm shift of increase diagnosis of cancer in young adults. Initially, not much was thought of it for those who work in the cancer field – patients are treated from approximately age 3 – 95 plus. But more and more non-oncology physician, staff, and those of the general population are asking, “why are so many young adults being diagnosed with cancer?” It is no longer a rarity to hear of a 28-year-old with breast cancer, or 37-year-old with lung cancer, or a 39-year-old with colon cancer, a 43-year-old with prostate cancer, and so on and so forth.  As it is with most cancers, many are sporadic and not directly linked to family genetics (hereditary).

Young Adult with cancer

It is reported that most of these patients tend to present with more advance stage cancer. It surmised that it is less to do with the disease, but more with delay in diagnosis.  Fifteen years ago, it was a rarity for routine recommendations for screening mammogram for a 28-year-old who has no family history, or known genetic predisposition for cancer, or a 35-year-old for a colonoscopy with no family history, or genetic predisposition for cancer. Today, screening is based on persistent symptoms beyond common medical managements, over a short period of time 

What then?

Our physicians (PCPs/PCMs) on the front-line (primary care, family medicine doctors, and independent practitioners, such as PA’s/NP’s) are now very aware of this shift and more prone to investigate sooner. Know your body and be your own advocate.  If you don’t tell them, they won’t know. If there is a skin lesion that is not going away and size, shape, or color is changing, ask your PCM/PCP for a referral to a dermatologist. Melanoma knows no age.  If you are having alternating diarrhea/constipation, with bloody or dark stools, even after hemorrhoidal treatments, request a referral for a gastroenterologist (GI doctor) – especially in the case of dark stool.

An associate of mine who was diagnosed in her late 30’s, was glad she insisted for a GI appointment. Not all GI symptoms are related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  A lump in the breast that persist and never evaluated. Be sure to have an ultrasound and/or mammogram at short intervals, until proven benign. Majority of the time, it’s “cystic breast” associated with monthly cycle.  But do not guess. Have it evaluated. There are several women diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy as well. For the scenarios above, the numbers are VERY small. They are only given to encourage you to engage with your PCP/PCM.  

Your body is your temple. No one knows it better than you do.  Do not disregard that small voice inside.  It is scary, yes, but even scarier is a diagnosis of an advance stage disease. Optimistically, if caught early, there is always a chance for control of the cancer…allowing for a life that is cancer free, for many years to come.

Life is beautiful and God is awesome. And know, you are pure awesomeness!

Until next time,

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Remember …

Ipsa Scientia Potestas est    ———  Knowledge itself is power!

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Queen, Your Family Friendly Cancer Doc!

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