University, a career – and chemo: Cancer rates rising among young adults
Researchers say there is ‘lack of appreciation’ in health community for challenges young cancer patients face in getting proper support
ANDRÉ PICARD AND JOE FRIESEN
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
April 17, 2009 at 3:52 AM EDT
PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER
Excerpts from the article:
“The number of teenagers and young adults developing cancer is on the rise, and they face tough challenges getting proper diagnosis and treatment, according to a new report.
There are often delays in diagnosis – largely because doctors rarely consider that young adults could have cancer, the report says.”
Re the Canadian Cancer Society: “The society’s report – Cancer Statistics 2009 – says about 2,075 young people aged 15 to 29 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. About 325 cancer deaths are expected in this age group, which represents 1.5 per cent of total cancer deaths.
But the relatively small number of deaths doesn’t reflect the huge impact the disease has on the young patients, their families and society, said Loraine Marrett, a senior scientist at Cancer Care Ontario and chair of the statistics steering committee at the cancer society.”
“The overall incidence of cancer among young people has risen slowly but steadily over the past decade. That is due, in part, to better detection, but scientists simply do not know why testicular and thyroid cancer rates are climbing, said Heather Logan, senior director of cancer control policy at the Canadian Cancer Society.
The silver lining is that the death rate has declined: The five-year survival rate for young adults is 85 per cent, better than the rate for children (82 per cent) and older adults (62 per cent). Ms. Logan said young people need to be more aware of their bodies and take cancer prevention seriously. In particular, young men should be conscious of changes in their testicles that could be indicative of cancer, and young women should get regular Pap tests, consider getting the HPV vaccine and be aware of lumps in their breasts.
More generally, young people should make lifestyle choices to reduce their future cancer risk, including avoiding overexposure to the sun and tanning beds, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, eating a healthy diet, being active, maintaining a healthy body weight and not engaging in risky sexual activity, she said.”
These are the comments I submitted to the Globe and Mail online:
Every time I read about young people with cancer I wonder how long it will take the health care system to see the need for change. Cancer is supposed to be a disease of aging which is bad enough, but when it strikes young people it can be devastating.
There is a bright light though – if we catch cancer early, it can be treated as a wake up call and not a death sentence; cancer can make people change their lives for the better. Prevention and early detection are crucial. How much better would it be to spend health care dollars on prevention and early detection?
Until things change I think we each have to listen to our body; if we have a gut instinct that something is seriously wrong, then do whatever it takes to get it checked out. Do not take no for an answer. This is not easy, especially for a young person and it helps to have someone in your corner to stand beside you and push you to check it out.
A big issue for me is the stress factor. Stress is unavoidable, but if it is managed properly it will not ruin your health. If stress is not managed properly there are hormones and chemicals produced, in a body under constant stress, which cause it to break down.
That’s why positive thinking works because the chemical soup in the body changes to one which is supportive instead of destructive. I am a 22 year cancer survivor; cancer turned my life around. I honestly believe I would not have enjoyed those 22 years in good health if I hadn’t done the work I did to manage my emotions and my stress level.
Cancer affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It’s time for all of us to pay attention to the big picture and take good care of ourselves in all of these areas.