Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer

More than 70,000 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) ages 15–39 are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Leukemia, lymphoma, testicular cancer, and thyroid cancer are the most common cancer types in younger AYAs (15–24 years old). By ages 25–39, breast cancer and melanoma make up a growing share of cancers among AYAs.

For childhood and adolescent cancer cases, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) collaborates with Primary Children's Hospital, recognized as one of the top children's hospitals in the United States. This facility is located on the same medical campus as HCI, allowing our specialists to work together in the treatment and management of childhood cancers.

Opening in 2017, The Primary Children's and Families' Cancer Research Center at HCI will hone in on childhood cancers, including the three leading causes of disease death in children: leukemia, sarcoma, and brain cancer, as well as inherited forms of cancer that can affect entire families.

HCI is currently conducting multiple studies in the areas of cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship in AYAs. For more information, learn about our research studies.

A New Cancer Specialty: Follow-Up Care for Long-Term Cancer Survivors

An estimated 1.5 million Americans alive today were diagnosed with cancer 20 or more years ago. Data suggest that many long-term survivors will likely develop one or more health problems that result from the cancer treatments they received.

The Pediatric Cancer Late-Effects Clinic at HCI is for adults who were treated for cancer before age 18 or anyone treated for a typical childhood cancer, even if he or she was over age 18 when treated. An example would be someone treated for osteosarcoma at the age of 22.

About two out of every three childhood cancer survivors have at least one late effect. Late effects are any long-term problem from being treated for cancer at a young age. Some examples of late effects are trouble getting pregnant, weak bones, heart problems, hearing loss, and a higher risk of getting a different cancer.

The Children’s Oncology Group, a network of doctors dedicated to researching pediatric cancer, publishes screening guidelines for late effects. The Pediatric Cancer Late-Effects Clinic uses these guidelines to develop treatments for each patient.

How do I know if cancer runs in my family?
What is the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic?
What is genetic testing?
What does genetic testing involve?
Is genetic testing recommended for everyone?

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How do I know if cancer runs in my family?
Families that have increased risks for cancer often have certain similarities:

  • Cancer occurring at an earlier age than in the general population (for example, breast or colon cancer before age 50)
  • Multiple close family members with either the same type of cancer or related cancers (for example, breast and ovarian cancer; colon and uterine cancer)
  • More than one type of cancer in the same person (for example, melanoma and pancreatic cancer)
  • A close family member with multiple primary cancers of one type, such as bilateral breast cancer (breast cancer occurring in both breasts) or a single family member with two separate melanomas
  • Rare cancers in the family
  • Multiple generations with cancer
  • One or more family members with multiple precancerous findings (for example, 10 or more colon polyps over a lifetime)

Individuals or families with these features may consider having a genetic evaluation to learn more about their cancer risk. To learn about a genetic evaluation, contact our Family Cancer Assessment Clinic (FCAC). The FCAC identifies and helps families who have an increased risk for cancer.

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What is the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic?
Before an appointment with our Family Cancer Assessment Clinic (FCAC), you will be asked to complete a questionnaire with information about your personal health history and a detailed questionnaire about your family history.

During an appointment, you will meet with a genetic counselor. The genetic counselor will review the patient's personal and family history to determine whether the family could have a hereditary risk for cancer. They will discuss available genetic testing options, including the risks and benefits of genetic testing.

If you decide to pursue genetic testing, the genetic counselor can guide you through the process. Counselors will discuss how hereditary cancer risks can be managed through screening and preventive options. Usually, an HCI physician will be available to answer additional questions. Our genetic counselors can also provide you with helpful educational and support resources as well as information about the opportunity to participate in research.

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What is genetic testing?
Genes are the parts of cells that hold the instructions for the body to function properly. Genetic testing looks for changes in genes (called mutations) that increase the risk of developing cancer. These mutations can be passed down through families, making some family members more likely to develop cancer than people in the general population.

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What does genetic testing involve?
The test usually requires a small blood sample. Sometimes other specimens, such as cells from a cheek swab, can be used. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results come back to the FCAC and will be shared with the patient, along with any additional management and follow-up recommendations.

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Is genetic testing recommended for everyone?
Genetic testing is available to everyone, but it is not always recommended. A genetic counselor and physician are available to talk with a patient about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing based on personal and family history. Ultimately each person has the final decision about whether to proceed with testing.

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The information was written by staff in the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic.