by CATHERINE NGUYEN
Cancer is rare in young adults, but a wide variety of cancers can occur in this group including:
- Brain and other Central Nervous System Tumours
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among young Australians, accounting for about 15% of diagnoses, followed by gonadal germ cell cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma (at about 14% each).
Survival rate is high and is improving, but diagnosis is often later compared to other age groups. This may be because
- most young adults tend to be healthy and don’t have routine medical care or even a regular doctor
- there is a sense of invincibility and invulnerability
- medical professionals may lack of familiarity with young adult cancer signs/symptoms due to lack of training or experience in this age group. As cancer is not common in this age group, doctors might be more likely to associate the symptoms with other causes.
The sooner cancer is found, the more likely the treatment is to be successful.
It is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of cancer. These can include:
- An unusual lump or swelling, especially in the neck, breast, belly, or testicle
- 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, sometimes along 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 colour
Other symptoms of young adult cancers are:
- abnormal discharge from an orifice
- lymph gland swelling;
- unilateral knee/shoulder pain/swelling
- a specific neurologic deficit or symptom of increased intracranial pressure
Even though some of the symptoms may overlap with those from much more common illnesses or injuries, it is worth a visit to your healthcare professional to be sure. This is especially important if the symptoms don’t go away, or get worse.
As Jessica Randall who was diagnosed with cancer at 22, advises, “Don’t wait. Don’t think you’re too young, that you can’t be affected, because it did to me.”
Catherine has been volunteering with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2017, and joined Solaris Cancer Care as a blog writer in early August 2020. She lost both her father and her husband to cancer, and the experiences changed her life. Catherine developed a passion for researching all matters relating to cancer during her husband’s fight, and is keen to continue building on her knowledge and using it to help others.