Cancer In Teenagers

A teenager or teen is a person who falls within the ages of 13 to 19 years old. A teenager is also addressed as an adolescent. WHO also considers ages between 10 and 21 as teenagers, as the brain develops in the 20s. After 20, a person is no longer a teenager. Adolescence is a transition period from childhood to adulthood.

Teenagers, these days get stressed out easily. They are very sensitive and vulnerable. They face unique medical, psychosocial and supportive care needs. The quality of life that should be led is lost before they are adults, so they face a number of medical problems, and Cancer is one of them.

Cancers in teenagers are different than in those found in adults and are more likely related to genetic and exposure to risk factors in early life. Though cancer is a common disease these days, teenagers getting it is rare. Less than 1% of cancer patients are teenagers.

Causes of Cancer In Teenagers:

  1. In adults the risk factors that have caused cancer is because the people have faced those risks for a long time, like lifestyle, smoking, too much consumption of alcohol exposure to pollution and so on
  2. Some teenagers inherit gene mutations from parents and are prone to some cancers.
  3. Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun
  4. Tanning beds increase the risk of Melanoma
  5. If treated with Chemotherapy and Radiation in childhood, cancer can increase the chances of getting a second cancer for a teenager, like leukemia
  6. Infection with HIV can get Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and other cancers.

Symptoms of Cancer in teenagers

  • Generally, in teens, the symptoms are not seen immediately as they can overlap with other illnesses or injuries.
  • Teenagers may feel run-down, get sick, have bumps or bruises but may not be cancer.
  •  The common symptoms of cancer can be:
  • A lump or swelling in the neck, belly, testicle or in any other part of the body.
  • Tiredness or loss of energy.
  • Bruises and abnormal bleeding
  • Fever that remains and pain in one part of the body
  • Headache, vomiting
  • Changes in the vision
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • A new mole or spot on the skin that changes color, size and shape

Seeing a Doctor:

If these symptoms are there, it’s better to see a doctor without any delay. Then medical history is seen, and a physical exam is done. Special tests and exams are taken, like blood test, X-rays, CT scans. If the doctor thinks that in these tests there are signs of cancer then the teenager will be referred to a specialist. The specialist will go in for biopsies depending on the location of the tumor or lump.

Things that Don't Cause Cancer

Kissing, getting killed in the balls, sitting on the toilet seats if public places, overeating ketchup, mobile phones, keeping the phone in the bra, cancer causes hair fall and so on.

Types of cancers in Teenagers:

Lymphomas that starts in the immune system cells known as lymphocytes. It starts in the lymph nodes or lymph tissue like tonsils or thymus.

Leukemia Cancers of the bone marrow and blood. This cancer is fast growing in teenagers, so they need to be treated as soon as diagnosed.

Thyroid Cancer. This is common in young women than in young men. A lump is found in the front part of the neck. The patient can experience pain or swelling in the neck. Problem in breathing, swallowing or there may be a change in the voice.

Brain and spinal cord tumors. In teenagers tumors may be found in lower or upper part of the brain. They may experience numbness, weakness, problems in the coordination of the arms and legs and bladder or bowel problems.         

Testicular cancer.  A lump is found on the testicle or it is swollen or becomes larger in size. They may or not be a pain. Most of these cancers are cured.

Sarcoma bone or soft tissue cancer. Patient can have pain and swelling around the bone area. The common places for this cancer is the hip, the chest wall—ribs and shoulders. While the soft tissue Sarcoma can occur in any part of the body, generally arms or legs.

Melanoma, if this runs in the family than teenagers can get it. A new spot on the skin can appear that changes the color, size and shape. It can be treated if diagnosed early.

Ovarian cancer. In young women this cancer is known as Germ Cell tumors. Bloating, belly pain or urinary symptoms are seen. 

Late Effects of Cancer in Teenagers

Even after surviving, teenagers continue to go through physical, psychological and social risks.

When compared with older survivors, teenagers have psychosocial difficulties, pulmonary complications and the fear of a second malignancy.

Discontinue of education, employment and marital status also face problems.

The treating doctor can always be a guide and his involvement during the follow up stage can remove and solve some of these psychological problems and fear from the patient and family.

A good diet and exercise will help.

The patient must also follow the instructions given by the health care team how to prevent and manage late effects of cancer. This is very important.

Causes of late Effects

Any cancer treatment causes late effects. So the teenagers also face late effects for a number of reasons:

  • The type of cancer and its location in the body.
  • The area in the body, where it was treated.
  • Age and type of treatment.
  • Genetics and family history.
  • General health of the patient before the treatment and after the treatment. 

Awareness and knowledge of cancer Among Teenagers

Most of them may not believe that they have cancer, because of their age and the feeling that they have a good health. So a new approach is needed to convince them and assured that they can be treated as they are young. Interacting with them, group discussions, and their serious participation will help. If a close relative participates in the discussion also helps. Information on sex and fertility, social physical environments during treatment and psychosocial support after treatment helps to a large extent.

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