The Most Common Cancers In Young Adults
The types of cancers seen in young adults are not unique to this age group, but the most common types in this age range are largely different from those in children or older adults.
Some of the most common cancers in young adults are:
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Brain and spinal cord tumors
Even within this age group, some of these cancers become more or less common as people age. For example, lymphomas are more common before age 25, whereas breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers become more common after age 25.
Many other types of cancer can occur in young adults as well.
Breast Cancer And Teenage Girls
If youre a teenage girl, you might be worried about your risk of getting breast cancer.
Developing breast cancer when youre a teenager is extremely rare. Its also uncommon in women in their 20s and 30s. The vast majority of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 50.
There can be a lot of unreliable information and scare stories on the internet, so its important to use reputable websites or talk to your GP if youre worried about any changes to your breasts. You can also call our Helpline free on 0808 800 6000 to speak with one of our experts.
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What Is Breast Cancer
The human body is made of tiny building blocks called cells. Your body creates them, replacing those that die with new ones. Usually, the body creates healthy, normal cells that do just what they’re supposed to do. This includes cells in the breasts, the two rounded areas on the front of the chest.
But if a cell changes into an abnormal, sometimes harmful form, it can divide quickly over and over again without dying, making many, many copies of itself. When this happens, a tumor, abnormal body cells grouped together in the form of a mass or lump, can start to form and grow.
Breast cancer is a kind of tumor that develops in the cells of a person’s breast. You may think that only women can get breast cancer, but because all people have breast tissue, men can get breast cancer as well but this is very rare.
Someone with breast cancer may have cancer cells in just one part of the breast, which might be felt as a lump. The cancer can spread throughout one or both breasts. Sometimes breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, like the bones< , the liver, or elsewhere.
How Do Young People Get This Disease In The First Place
Dr. Johnson explains, The exact etiology is unknown, as it is in most breast cancers. Young women are more known to have a genetic mutation associated with their breast cancer as opposed to older women, but this has not been demonstrated to be the leading risk factor.
More research is needed to identify causative factors in this patient population.
Though the National Cancer Institute says that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in females 15 to 54, this isnt as frightening as it seems.
First off, included in this statistic are women 50 to 54. In fact, the inclusion of women 40 to 49 is also significant.
The vast majority of those cancer deaths in that age range are in women over 40.
But still, what about the inclusion of teens in this statistic?
That teenagers 15 to 19 are included in this statistic simply reflects the fact that teens are less likely to die from heart disease, Alzheimers disease, liver disease, kidney failure and stroke!
Thus, the statistic of 15 to 54 needs to be put into some serious context.
Another point to consider: No matter how rare a medical condition is in a certain demographic, its very existence in that demographic means that the answer must be Yes when the question is asked if it can occur in that specific demographic.
In other words, if only ONE 17-year-old in the history of mankind developed breast cancer, this would validate saying, Yes, a 17-year-old can get breast cancer.
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Hannah’s Cancer A Scary Diagnosis
Regardless of what type of tumor it was, any kind of cancer is a heavy diagnosis to handle for a child Hannah’s age, noted Lillie Shockney, administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center in Baltimore, Md.
“This is the youngest case I’ve ever heard of,” Shockney said. “I find for youngsters at this age its best to not be focusing on the kind of cancer it is, but that it is cancer and that surgery and other treatment are needed.
“It’s hard enough for adults to get their heads around breast cancer, much less a child.”
While Hannah’s story is ultimately a hopeful one, Shockney said that it is also highly unusual, and she added that she does not feel that it would be appropriate for parents to believe breast cancer is a major risk for their young daughters.
“I don’t want the outcome to be that mothers are panicked across the country wanting to have their daughters in elementary and middle and high school to get mammograms or even clinical breast exams,” Shockney said. “This is a highly unusual situation.”
Shockney was not the only one to express reservations about how the situation should be broached to the public. While the Auslam family has been very open about Hannah’s fight, the media coverage of her experience has sparked debate among breast cancer experts as to whether or not such a rare case of cancer should be given widespread coverage.
Treatments For Breast Cancer In Men
The treatment for breast cancer in men depends on how far the cancer has spread.
Possible treatments include:
- surgery to remove the affected breast tissue and nipple and some of the glands in your armpit
- radiotherapy where radiation is used to kill cancer cells
- chemotherapy where cancer medicine is used to kill cancer cells
- other medicines that help stop breast cancer growing including tamoxifen and trastuzumab
Many men have surgery followed by 1 or more of the other treatments. This can help stop the cancer coming back in the future.
Read more about treatments for breast cancer in men.
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How Is Breast Cancer Treated
Treatment for breast cancer usually depends on the type of cancer and whether the cancer has spread outside of the breast to other parts of the body.
Here are some common treatments:
- lumpectomy , which removes the cancerous tumor from the breast. A woman usually has this surgery when the cancer is found early and when the lump is small and in only one part of the breast.
- mastectomy , which removes the whole breast. This surgery is done when cancer cells have spread through the breast or into other parts of the body. It’s a good way to remove all or most of the cancer, and can help prevent the cancer from spreading or coming back. Sometimes, a woman who has a mastectomy may choose to have an operation to reconstruct the breast, so her shape will be more like it was before.
- radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which are often used after lumpectomy or mastectomy to make sure that all the cancer cells are destroyed and do not grow back. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy , or chemo, is special medicine that travels throughout the entire body and kills cancer cells.
Premenstrual Breast Pain And Swelling
- Main Symptom: breast fullness and pain.
- Cause: extra body fluid from female hormone cycles.
- Other symptoms: headache, swollen feet .
- Timing: mainly noticed in the week prior to menstrual periods.
- Course: improves during menstrual period and goes away between menstrual periods.
- Physical Findings: fullness that can be felt throughout both breasts.
- Onset: usually 2 years after onset of periods . Similar onset as for menstrual cramps.
- Frequency: 10% of teens and 50% of adult women.
- Treatment: mainly ibuprofen and support bra. If breast pain can’t be controlled with ibuprofen, 80% can be improved by birth control pills.
- Other treatments: daily exercise and getting enough sleep.
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Can 18 Years Old People Have Breast Cancer
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How Much Should A 13 Year Old Workout
Doctors recommend that teens age 13 to 18 get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days of the week. 2 The minimum amount should be 30 minutes three times a week. Not all teens meet the ideal amount, but if your teen can get 30 to 60 minutes a day three or four days a weekthats a start.
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When To Start Breast Examinations
The American Cancer Society no longer recommends regular breast self-exams, since theres no evidence that they help reduce breast cancer deaths.
The organization still believes that being familiar with what is normal for your breasts will make it easier to recognize any changes that happen. A change in breast shape or texture, a new lump, or other significant change could signal a problem that should be checked out by your healthcare provider.
Most teens dont need breast exams at the doctor because they are not at high risk for cancer. But if you have a family history of breast problems, your doctor or nurse might give you a breast exam during your annual checkup.
What Is A Young Adult Cancer
There is no strict definition of what separates childhood cancers from cancers in young adults, or when exactly a person is no longer a young adult. But for statistics purposes, cancers in young adults are often thought of as those that start between the ages of 20 and 39.
Cancer is not common in young adults, but a wide variety of cancer types can occur in this age group, and treating these cancers can be challenging.
Most cancers occur in older adults. The most common cancers in older people are cancers of the skin, lung, colon and rectum, breast , and prostate . Many cancers in older adults are linked to lifestyle-related risk factors or to other environmental factors. A small portion are strongly influenced by changes in a persons genes that they inherit from their parents.
Cancers that start in children or in teens are much less common. The types of cancers that develop in children and teens are often different from the types that develop in adults. Childhood cancers are often the result of gene changes that take place very early in life, sometimes even before birth. Unlike many cancers in adults, cancers in children and teens are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors.
The types of cancers that occur in young adults are a mix of many of the types that can develop in children, teens, and older adults.
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Symptoms Included In This Guide Are: Breast Pain Breast Lump Breast Size Shape Or Symmetry Questions Redness Of Breast
- Breast lump: fibroadenoma, cyst. See Breast Lump details below
- Nipple discharge: milk, blood, pus, clear fluid
- Acute breast pain with redness : often an infection.
- Acute breast pain and fullness without redness : always consider pregnancy
- Recurrent breast pain with menstrual periods: cyclic mastalgia. See details below.
- Chronic breast pain, unrelated to menstrual period and usually just one side: fibroadenoma, cyst. Marijuana use can cause breast pain.
Causes Of Breast Cancer In Teens
Doctors arent entirely sure what causes teenage breast cancer because there are so few cases.
In general, though, its thought that childhood cancers develop because of changes in cells and DNA that occur early in life. These changes can even happen while youre still in the womb.
The ACS also notes that childhood cancers arent strongly associated with environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking or eating certain foods.
However, if you introduce these unhealthy behaviors early in life, they can increase your risk for breast cancer when youre older.
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Causes Of Breast Cancer
No one knows the exact cause of breast cancer, but there are known risk factors such as:
- Changes to your genes: Known as genetic mutations
- Family history of breast cancer: If your mother or grandmother had breast cancer, you might be terrified you will get it too. But only about 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of this disease.
- More dense breasts: Breasts with higher amounts of connective tissue vs. fat can mask cancers.
- Personal history of cancer
- Prior exposure to radiation: Young women who have had radiation therapy for another condition, like Hodgkin lymphoma, are especially at high risk.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese heightens the risk of breast cancer after menopause.
- Sedentary lifestyle
Some factors like smoking, obesity, and alcohol use are preventable factors, while others like older age and genetics are out of your control.
Breast Cancer Statistics In Young Adults
Although breast cancer in young adults is rare, more than 250,000 living in the United States today were diagnosed under age 40. In young adults, breast cancer tends to be diagnosed in its later stages. It also tends to be more aggressive. Young adults have a higher mortality rate. As well as a higher risk of metastatic recurrence .
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Cancers Of The Female Genital Tract
Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most often it is found in women younger than 50. It rarely occurs in women younger than 20. Most cervical cancers can be found early, or even prevented, with screening tests. Vaccines against HPV, the virus linked to most cervical cancers, can also help prevent it. The most common symptom of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Overall, ovarian cancer is much more common in older women than in women younger than 40. But some less common types of ovarian cancers, known as germ cell tumors, are more common in teens and young women than in older women. Early ovarian cancer usually does not cause symptoms, but some women might feel full quickly when eating or they might have abnormal bloating, belly pain, or urinary symptoms. Women who have any of these symptoms lasting more than a few weeks should see their doctor.
For more information, see Cervical Cancer and Ovarian Cancer.
Why Do People Get Breast Cancer
Any woman can get breast cancer, but these things can make some women more likely to get it:
- Family history: A woman whose mother, sister, aunt, or daughter has had breast cancer is more likely to get it.
- Age: As women get older, they are more at risk for breast cancer. Teens as well as women in their twenties and thirties are less likely to get breast cancer.
- Diet and lifestyle choices: Women who smoke, eat high-fat diets, drink alcohol, and don’t get enough exercise may be more at risk for developing breast cancer.
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When To See Your Gp
See your GP if you have:
- a lump in your breast
- any other worrying symptoms, such as nipple discharge
- a history of breast cancer in members of your family and you’re worried about your chances of getting it
It’s very unlikely you have cancer, but it’s best to get your symptoms checked. Your GP will examine your breast and can refer you for tests and scans for breast cancer if needed.
If you do not have symptoms but have a clear family history of breast cancer, your GP may refer you to a genetic specialist to discuss your risk of getting it.
There are some inherited genes that increase your risk of cancer and a blood test can be done to check for these. Read about testing for cancer risk genes.
When You Need Help
As a young adult or teen, you are either becoming independent or you already are. Depending on your age, you might live on your own or even have your own family. But you will probably need some support to cope with cancer. Here are some ways to find emotional, spiritual, and practical help:
Talk with a friend, family member, teacher, or religious leader about your thoughts, feelings, and fears.
Find professional help. Talking with a counselor, social worker, or therapist can be very valuable. Ask your health care team to recommend someone who works with people your age who have cancer.
A social worker can help you find practical help, such as health insurance or rides to treatment. They can also help you find support groups. Talking to other teens or young adults with cancer can be very helpful. Learn more about support groups for young adults with cancer.
Reach out on social media. You can use Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps to stay connected with friends even if you miss work or school. You can also find other young adults with cancer. Learn about online communities for support.
Write about what you are going through. Writing can help you cope with stress.
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