Young adults – those ranging from the late teens to age 39 – are usually missing from the “picture” the media and others paint about cancer. Most of the time, the public sees either a young child or an adult who’s middle-aged or elderly instead. That leaves out an entire segment of the population.
Some 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Cancer, in fact, is the number one disease killing people 20 to 39 years of age. At the same time, this group has the lowest participation in clinical trials – supervised treatment programs aimed at finding breakthroughs and cures.
In recent years, as the use of the Internet and social media have grown, there has also been a growth in organizations devoted to the specific needs of young adults with cancer. Like all cancer patients, young adults need disease and treatment information, support and connection with others. They also face areas of concern that are better addressed at an age-specific level including education gaps, insurance issues, body image, sexuality, fertility preservation, employment and long term treatment effects.
One of the leaders in addressing the needs of young adults with cancer is the I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation founded by Matthew Zachary who was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 21. Located at http://stupidcancer.com/, the foundation is the country’s largest support organization for young adults and has a global following.
Since 2003, the first week in April has been celebrated as Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week to draw more attention to the needs of this population. It was started by Vital Options, a not-for-profit cancer communications organization whose founder and CEO, Selma Schimmel, had breast cancer at age 28. In collaboration with others they have released a series of video public service announcements and vignettes about young adults with cancer for the 2011 observance:
What does this year’s campaign advise young adults do to prevent cancer? Take matters into their OWN hands: