In 2006 the National Cancer Institute and the LIVESTRONG Foundation put their heads together to address the issue of the 70,000+ young adults diagnosed with cancer annually. Their solution– the Young Adult Alliance, a coalition of 140 organizations whose focus is to improve survival rates of cancer patients between the ages of 15 and 40.
Those encompassed by the term ‘young adult’ fall between pediatrics and adult cancer care, which make this 25 year period especially dangerous considering young adults are biologically different from their younger or more elderly peers. With young adult cancer diagnosis being 8 times more common than that of a child, patients find themselves using the same treatment methods that older adults use, thus ignoring key points of focus like fertility and body development.
I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with LIVESTRONG’s own Kelli Craddock, Director of the Young Adult Alliance, to talk about the Young Adult Alliance, and what they are doing to help young adults with a cancer burden. Kelli informed me, as a young adult, that one of the main reasons young adult cancer survival is so low is delayed diagnosis. It seems that physicians are misdiagnosing patients because of a false belief that since young adults are in their prime, they simply are invincible, and thus it is assumed they are without an illness as serious cancer. What Kelli is working on, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, is to create a standard of care for the unique psychosocial concerns of young adults, and to increase awareness in both the young adult population and medical providers.
As a young adult myself, I was curious to see what I was doing that was putting me at risk. Kelli recommended to me, and to all young adults, to educate myself on my family’s medical history and to avoid risky behaviors like excessive tanning and tobacco use. As Austin heats up, she stressed the importance of wearing sunscreen, especially when spending more than an hour at a time in the sun. Kelli also stressed the importance of knowing your body. Don’t ignore unexplained changes in the way you feel or look.
For more information about the Young Adult Alliance you can visit their website at www.livestrong.org/yaa – make sure you check out the video!
If you are a young adult diagnosed with cancer call LIVESTRONG Survivor Care at (866) 673-7205