There is no clear line separating cases of childhood/adult cancer from those that occur in young adults and those that occur in others. However, cancer cases that occur in people between 20 to 39 years old are often classified as cancer events in young adults. More importantly, cancer is not frequent in young adults, but they are at risk of a wide range of cancers, some of which can be difficult to cure. In an interaction with OnlyMyHealth editorial team, Dr Harshit Shah, Associate Consultant-Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan explains the types of cancer that develops in young adults.
Invasive cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA) is less common in younger children and older adults, although it does occur. Thyroid, Hodgkin's lymphoma, testicular germ cell tumours, breast, colorectal cancers, acute lymphoid leukaemia, and sarcomas are some of the more prevalent cancers in AYAs. The most common types of cancer within the AYA group divided into three age groups:
Ages 15 to 19yrs: Thyroid, Hodgkin Lymphoma (13%), brain and other nervous system, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, and testicular germ cell umours are the five most prevalent Cancers in this age range.
Ages 20 to 29yrs: Thyroid cancer, testicular germ cell tumours, cutaneous melanoma, Hodgkin Lymphoma (9%), and breast cancer are the five most prevalent cancers in this age range.
Ages 30 to 39yrs: Breast, thyroid, melanoma of the skin, colon and rectum, and testicular germ cell tumours are the five most prevalent cancers in this age range.
The challenges that AYAs with Cancer experience may affect them differently than children or older adults. This is due to their varied stages of life, which include educational attainment, career development, and fertility concerns. Furthermore, the biological and psychosocial demands of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients appear to be distinct from those of older adults and children.
AYA Cancer Patients Needs Support
Adolescents and adults who have cancer require support from their family and friends, especially in three main areas namely, social well-being, information, and healthcare services. It goes without saying that the health-related quality of life and social functioning for AYA Cancer survivors is not equal to those without a Cancer history.
In fact, studies have reported AYA Cancer survivors tend to have a higher prevalence of various health conditions that include Obesity, smoking, alcohol addiction, chronic health conditions, and inferior mental & physical health. They also face physical issues including fatigue, Endocrinopathies, bone health issues, neuropathy, ototoxicity, and cardiovascular and/or respiratory issues.
Another issue that AYA Cancer survivors face is related to psychosocial outcomes like facing challenges, making choices, and developmental milestones related to education, employment, identity, relationships, and family concerns which differ from older adults. Some AYA Cancer survivors may also be challenged by physical deformities, particularly during this phase of life when body image is critical to their sense of self.
For adults, returning to work can be difficult transition, especially for Cancer patients who have had to undergo Chemotherapy or other Cancer related treatments. As treatment related effects can disrupt their work-related physical tasks, mental tasks, they may require extended time off work and support from people around them.
Dealing With Problems Associated With Cancer Survivours
The types of problems in AYA Cancer survivors differ by gender. Males have problems with erection, ejaculation, and orgasm, whereas females struggle most often with vaginal dryness, body shape and lack of sexual desire. These challenging health outcomes in the AYA population are likely related to multiple factors like financial barriers or knowledge barriers.
AYA Cancer patients usually lack adequate information about the Cancer treatments that they have received, Cancer recurrence or secondary Cancer risks. To avoid any additional mental stress, it is recommended that all survivors of AYA Cancers have access to mental health specialists, especially during their follow-up visits to doctors and Oncologists. These can help them detect signs and symptoms which can arise during and even years after treatment.
Another important concern for cancer survivors in this category is infertility, which can be a source of significant long-term stress and anxiety. Prior to beginning any treatment, it is extremely vital to educate yourself about fertility preservation or the use of assisted reproduction. AYA Cancer survivors may feel uneasy and frightened when discussing infertility, premature menopause, and sexual function adjustments like lubricants with their partners, which is why doctors and psychologists can assist them by offering pertinent information and counseling.
Finally, the use of technology, such as social media and web-based and mobile applications, can be tremendously successful in improving outcomes for AYA cancer survivors. They can serve as a significant delivery mechanism and boost survivorship information. In fact, a few mobile applications for pain treatment in teenagers with cancer have been developed, which could be utilised as a model for targeting psychosocial outcomes in survivors.