It’s easy to dismiss troubling symptoms, since many people believe that cancer doesn’t happen often in young people. Yet it is the leading cause of disease-related death in young people. What symptoms should you look for?
There is a lack of expectation that young adults get cancer, yet it is the number one cause of disease-related death in this age group. Even when symptoms arise, they are usually chalked up to more common ailments. Because of this, patients aged 15 – 39 years old are often misdiagnosed during the early stages of cancer — when the disease is most treatable. There are several factors that contribute to this delay.
- Most young adults are fairly healthy and don’t go to the doctor unless it’s urgent. This is especially true in young men.
- Young adults sometimes hold an “it won’t happen to me” mentality.
- Young adult years are a time of transition and new independence. Establishing a general practitioner is usually not high on the priority list.
- People in this age group are less likely to have health insurance, which can contribute to postponing doctors appointments.
- Symptoms like pain or fatigue are common in teenage and young adult years and could mask other early signs of cancer.
- There is a misguided assumption that cancer is a disease of older people.
Young adults get rare and aggressive forms of cancer and improvements in survival rates have lagged compared to children and older adults. Recognizing symptoms early may lead to a diagnosis sooner, which may optimize treatment options. Education is the crucial step to early detection.
Possible Symptoms of Young Adult Cancer
It’s important to recognize the common warning signs of cancer even though many of these symptoms are unrelated to cancer. Still, if you experience any of these symptoms — especially if they don’t go away or they get worse — see a doctor.
- An unusual lump or swelling in the neck, breast, belly, testicle, or elsewhere
- Unexplained tiredness and loss of energy
- Easy bruising
- Abnormal bleeding
- Ongoing pain in one part of the body
- Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
- Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
- Sudden eye or vision changes
- Loss of appetite or unplanned weight loss
- A new mole or other spot on the skin, or one that changes in size, shape, or color