There is never a good age to be diagnosed with cancer. However, it seems especially cruel when cancer happens to young adults, ages 20 to 39, who should be enjoying the full bloom of their youth and health.
Now, according to a story in the New York Times, there’s some disturbing news about this age group. The rates of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal, thyroid and testicular, are rising in this age group. And the survival rates for people ages 15 to 39 has not improved significantly in two decades, unlike survival rates for older people. The most common cancer diagnosis for females ages 20 to 39 is breast cancer.
The experts don’t know, without studying it further, why some young adults are predisposed to cancer. In 2006, there were about 55,200 new cases of cancer in that age group, and 9,300 cancer deaths. Overall, the survival rates for younger adults is better than for older people with cancer. As of 2003, the latest year with statistics, the five-year survival rate was 78.5 percent for those ages 20 to 39 versus 68 percent for those ages 40 to 69.
There are certain problems that go along with being younger and having cancer. The disease is often diagnosed later than it would be in an older person because doctors don’t expect it. At least anecdotally, this often seems to be the case with breast cancer. I have heard and read a few personal horror stories about young women whose lumps were dismissed or misdiagnosed because their doctors considered them “too young” to have breast cancer.
Young women who have breast cancer, and want more information and resources, should check out the website of The Young Survival Coalition, an awareness and advocacy group.