Young Adult Cancer Survivors May Face a Challenging Future

Adolescent and young adult cancer survivors must be their own advocates to live long and well.

Oeffinger says he and his staff follow around 1,000 patients who range in age from 17 to 85 who received a cancer diagnosis prior to their 40th birthday. In this group, he has seen numerous second cancers, as well as other late effects. A particular interest for Oeffinger is women who had radiation to the chest area before age 30 and are now at risk for breast cancer. According to a study released at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), their risk is comparable to women who carry the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations. 

“At the end of the day, each person has to make his or her own individual decision about whether or not to be followed and monitored,” he says. “For example, I recently reviewed records of a young adult Hodgkin lymphoma survivor who was not followed in our program. She was not getting any screening, felt a mass in her breast and then waited six months before seeing a physician. Unfortunately by then, her options were limited. Her death was highly avoidable.” 

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