Young Adults with Cancer
If you’re in your 20s and 30s, do you think about getting cancer? Most young people do not imagine receiving a cancer diagnosis and yet it happens. Although cancer is less common in the 18-45 year old range versus those older, it happens more often than most people know. While 18 and 45 are worlds apart in age, the range in between defines them as a young adult when concerning cancer.
Statistics reveal the growing number of young adults who will experience getting cancer during their early years. Each year approximately 70,000 individuals are diagnosed with cancer during their 20s and 30s here in the United States. Half-a-million cancer survivors were diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 45. There are also 250,000 women living with breast cancer who are under the age of 45. Young adults sometimes experience a delay in diagnosis since they aren’t overly concerned by the possibility of having cancer and it is sometimes overlooked by health professionals as it is not the most likely cause of symptoms in this young population. Young adults often feel unprepared when they hear they have cancer. Becoming educated and knowing what options might be available as well as understanding the special needs of young adults such as fertility, child care issues, and financial insecurity, they can better find available resources in helping with supporting their long term needs, recovery, and getting the support through their journey with treatments and overall wellness.
At Simms/Mann — UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, we have a team of professionals familiar with cancer in young adults and some of their common issues and needs. The less familiar an individual might be with the medical world, the more foreign the experience will feel. Young adults may postpone their initial visits to doctors because they aren’t very worried or they may lack health insurance. Dealing with the health care system could also become overwhelming. By having a support staff available to help these young patients, they are able to understand their situation better and help in managing the roller coaster of emotions they may experience while they cope with their cancer.
Important issues that are likely to come up:
- Feelings of regret, guilt, sadness, loss, grief and anger about this event in their life
- Having to address fertility issues
- Concerns about managing life with scheduling cancer treatments
- Change in one’s independence and the role of parents
- Impact of cancer on relationships and dating
- Managing friends’ reactions
- Finding a peer group of people going through similar experiences
- Being careful about findings on the Internet and not getting overwhelmed
- Developing a good working relationship with their medical team
Some services that are available at the Simms/Mann UCLA Center:
- Individual, couples, and family support to help in understanding their cancer journey
- Integrative Oncology Specialist to provide information about nutrition and supplementation
- Young Adult Support Group to meet and connect with others who are also faced with similar struggles
- Medication to help manage anxiety, sleep problems, and depression from a psychiatrist with special training in cancer
Additional suggestions to take into consideration:
- Seek information and utilize all of the resources at your disposal; including Internet, pamphlets, books, medical team and the Simms/Mann UCLA Center.
- Keep in mind that the Internet does provide support groups and chat rooms with young cancer patients that make access to others easier. But it is encouraged, if possible, to attend support groups with a facilitator to help supervise discussions and be able to provide knowledgeable input on cancer topics in a trusted environment.
- Mental Health Professionals, including psychologists and clinical social workers, are great resources to talk through concerns and to deal with situations involving a cancer diagnosis. They can assist in figuring out life goals, offering support, deal with loss, reduce anxiety and cope with depression. They also can help advocate and guide you through the system and can assist in accessing resources.
- Build in positive activities. Think of things that you have done throughout your life that make you happy. Cancer doesn’t have to stop everything fun in your life. Be sure to substitute more strenuous activities with less intense ones if treatment is reducing energy and physical abilities.
Simms/Mann Center’s Young Adult Cancer Support Group is focused on those coping with cancer in their 20s and 30s. For more information, go to: https://www.simmsmanncenter.ucla.edu/?p=1593
To get a detailed overview from the Director of Simms/Mann UCLA Center, Anne Coscarelli, PhD, on “Young Adults with Cancer,” go to: https://www.simmsmanncenter.ucla.edu/?p=1425
For additional advice with resources for young adults with cancer, go to: https://www.simmsmanncenter.ucla.edu/index.php/services/young-adults/