Each year more than 72,000 adolescents and young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Although many people know of a child in their community with cancer, most people do not know that adolescents and young adults, aged 15 to 39 years old, are much more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than children under 15 years of age.
The most common types of cancer seen in adolescents and young adults are lymphoma, leukemia, germ cell tumors (including testicular cancer), melanoma, tumors of the central nervous system, sarcoma, and breast, cervical, liver, thyroid and colorectal cancers.
"Cancer" is not a single disease with a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. For example, a breast tumor in a young adult can grow and respond to treatment very differently than the same type of tumor in an older adult.
Sometimes adolescents and young adults with cancer do better with treatment approaches that are tailored to younger children rather than those designed for older adults. Depending on a person's age, they may want to talk with their doctor about getting a second opinion regarding treatment from a pediatric (children's) cancer specialist.
Clinical trials are an important treatment option for cancer patients of all ages. Currently, only about 2 percent of patients 20-years-old to 39-years-old are treated in clinical trials, compared with over 60 percent of children under the age of 15. Children younger than 15 have had a corresponding increase in survival of more than 60 percent since the 1950s. Participation of more adolescents and young adults in clinical trials will help improve the treatment and survival for patients in this age group.
If you are interested in finding out more about these studies, visit our Clinical Trials Guide for general information and a listing of currently open clinical trials.