Living with cancer blog

Young adults with cancer face unique challenges

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. March 30, 2010

Having a diagnosis of cancer is difficult at any age. However, if you're one of nearly 70,000 young adults in your late teens to early thirties diagnosed with cancer, you're experiencing some unique challenges.

You may be at a point in your life when you're sorting through educational opportunities, exploring new work experiences and lifestyle options. Now, suddenly your focus is redirected to learning more about your cancer, navigating treatment options and managing the many challenges that accompany a cancer diagnosis. Other concerns that young adults with cancer may encounter include:

  • Fragmented or no insurance coverage
  • Maintaining an independent living environment
  • Living far from your immediate family
  • Peer support
  • Privacy
  • Dating, intimacy, relationships and fertility
  • Maintaining self-esteem and a sense of normal life
  • Inexperience navigating the medical system
  • Managing medical treatment, side effects of treatment and coordinating care following treatment
  • Tracking and management of long-term or late effects of cancer treatment as they transition through the adult years

Research shows that young adult cancer survivors may have poorer outcomes as a whole because of a variety of factors. These factors include delayed diagnosis (symptoms may be ignored or attributed to other things), limited access to clinical trials, fragmented medical care (young adults may be in between their pediatrician care and finding an adult care provider), lack of education and awareness related to risk factors and knowledge of cancer screening strategies.

It's not easy being a cancer survivor at any age, but as a young adult, it can be particularly difficult. In this blog, I encourage those of you who are young adults with cancer to reach out to each other and share experiences, resources and strategies.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

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Mar. 30, 2010