Cancer is more in young adults than in older adults, maybe on account of mutation in genes, environmental factors and lifestyle. Most of them are between the age groups from 15 and 44 years in both the genders. Nearly 30% of adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. In gents, the common cancers are of the mouth, stomach, testis, bone and penis and in ladies are mouth, cervix, uterus, breast, thyroid and stomach. In the past quarter-century, cancer in young adults has increased. As advances in treatment have increased, the survival rate has also gone up.
Lifestyle like smoking, overweight, eating unhealthy food, no proper exercise and consuming more alcohol. Sometimes children inherit gene mutations from one of the parents, like DNA mismatch causing colorectal or ovarian cancers. Other inherited cancers are leukaemia and sarcoma. However, some of the cancers are not through inherited gene changes.
Some known causes of cancer in young adults are:
- Exposure to the ultraviolet light of the sun
- HPV- infection, which causes cervical cancers
- HIV- infection can cause lymphoma, sarcoma and other cancers
Sometimes, the cause cannot be known as changes take place inside a cell, without any external cause.
Mouth or oral cancer in young adults:
This is one of the most common cancers in young males. Patients under the age of 35 years are suffering from oral cancer. These days women also suffer from oral cancer. It is the sixth most common cancer in the world.
Causes: Tobacco habits, in the form of chewing or smoking with or without alcohol.
- immune deficiency
- genetic factors
- Dietary factors
Symptoms: Mouth cancer rarely causes any pain.
Affects the lips, teeth, front two-thirds of the tongue, gums, roof of the
mouth, with a bump, sore or swelling in the mouth. A white or a red
patch inside the mouth or on the lips.
Treatment: The three most common treatments are radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy. Apart from these, there is also Photodynamic therapy- drugs with light to kill cancer cells.
Stomach cancer is on the rise among young adults, ages from 25 to 40 years.
Causes: the leading cause is bacterial infection and acidic reflux.
Dietary factors- salt and salt-preserved foods
Smoking- a risk factor for upper and lower stomach cancers
Symptoms: Abdominal pain, weight loss, anaemia.
Treatment: Surgery, Radiation therapy, Chemotherapy, Targeted therapy or Immunotherapy.
It is the most common cancer in men, in the age group from 15 to 40 years.
- undescended testicle
- Family history, being white rather than a black or Asian
- having HIV.
- a lump on a testicle
- swelling on the testicle
- shrinking of a testicle
- collection of fluid in the scrotum
- discomfort or pain in the testicle, lower back pain.
The best way to detect is self-examination once a month after a warm bath.
Surgery, Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, stem cell treatment and surveillance
This cancer is also known as Endometrial Cancer, common in women below 40 years. Some of these women did not give birth yet, so fertility-sparing is essential.
- trouble in getting pregnant
- take a drug to treat breast cancer
- if a family member had uterine, colon or ovarian cancer.
- Vaginal discharge or bleeding,
- Pain or pressure on the pelvis,
- Abnormal bleeding
- The first treatment is surgery
- This includes Hysterectomy-laparoscopy
- Lymph node removal
- Radiation therapy
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
This is most common in young adults than in older people. It is also more common in women than in men, between the ages of 20 and 40.
- when cells in the thyroid grow out of control and they crowd around normal cells.
- the thyroid cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body like the lungs and bone, and they begin to grow there.
- a lump in the front of the neck.
- pain or swelling in the neck.
- trouble while breathing or swallowing
- change in the voice.
Treatment: Depending on the type and stage of thyroid cancer, the treatment is done.
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Radiation treatment-x-rays.
- Targeted therapy.
- Thyroid hormone replacement.
Types of Cancer in Young Adults:
The major types of cancers in young adults are- Carcinoma, Sarcoma, Melanoma, Lymphoma and Leukemia.
This cancer is also known as Hodgkin Lymphoma. I t is one of the most common cancers in young adults, in the age group of 15 to 24 years. When youngsters have affected this cancer, the success rate is high as most of them get cured. In lymphomas, white blood cells grow uncontrollably and form a lump.
- Painless lump in the neck, armpits or groin.
- Lumps inside the chest, this causes cough or breathlessness.
- Tiredness, fever, weight loss and so on.
Radiotherapy to the affected area, this controls it for a long time and can also treat it.
Wait and watch: The doctor waits as no symptoms are troubling the patient.
First-line treatment: Combination of chemo and targeted immunotherapy
Maintenance treatment: This delays the lymphoma from coming back.
Second-line treatment: The doctor waits and sees the response of the first treatment. Then it can be a combination of chemo and a drug called rituximab.
Intensive treatment: This includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy, followed by stem cell or bone marrow transplant.
When white blood cells- the DNA of developing blood cells gets damaged leukaemia starts. When this happens, blood cells grow and divide uncontrollably. These abnormal blood cells do not die but grow and occupy more space and do not allow white blood cells to grow and function normally.
Symptoms: blood clotting, frequents infections, anaemia, sweating at night, bone pain, weight loss, tiredness, fever.
Treatment depends on the type of leukaemia, age and health condition.
- The first treatment is chemotherapy
- Targeted therapy
- Interferon therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Stem cell transplantation.
Prevention of cancer in young adults:
- Stop smoking.
- Controlling weight and being active.
- Spend limited time in the sun, avoid going to tanning salons.
- Practising safe sex, this lowers the infection of HPV and HIV.
- Limiting the consumption of alcohol.
Awareness about cancer in young adults is less. They are only aware of cancer caused due to smoking. Young adults must be educated about the types of cancers and the risk factors. Awareness can be through public education, the medical care to be taken should be made known. Yearly check-ups with an Oncologist should be made aware among young adults.