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late diagnosis and lack of awareness

In recent decades the incidence of cancer cases has increased in teenagers and young adults.

This is clear from the study Child, adolescent and young adult health carried out by the Merck Salut Foundation in which thirty experts have participated and which dedicates one of the chapters to cancer in this population group.

As stated in the report, oncology patients aged 15 to 39 comprise the group of AYA (in English, adolescents and young adults), that is, of adolescents and young adults.

Impact of cancer on adolescents and young adults

the group AYA it is described as a different population due to the characteristics specific to their age and the challenges they have to face throughout the course of the disease and in the subsequent years.

Among these, the study highlights:

  • Psychosocial needs.
  • Coping with the changes inherent in development.
  • Preserve fertility.
  • Therapeutic adherence.
  • Long-term sequelae of the disease and treatments.
  • Late diagnosis (due to the lack of awareness about the symptoms and the risk of suffering from it so early).

All these differential characteristics mean that this population group requires a different treatment than that used in adults or children and that the need to carry out new clinical trials is highlighted, since most research only includes elderly people 18 years.

Thus, knowing the main types of cancer that affect these patients and their characteristics can help improve early detection.

Thyroid cancer

According to the researchers, the thyroid cancer it is the most frequent cause of endocrine cancer in children and adolescents.

around the 80-90% of thyroid carcinomas are of papillary typeone 10% of follicular type and the 3-5% medullary carcinoma.

Among the elements that increase the risk of suffering from thyroid cancer are:

  • Autoimmune thyroid diseases.
  • Iodine deficiency.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation.

The most common clinical manifestation is the presence of nodules or cervical masses. They are diagnosed by ultrasound and cytology by puncture.

As for the treatment, it is mainly surgical. In most cases it includes a total thyroidectomy and sometimes requires central and bilateral lymph node dissection.

Germ tumors

This type of cancer affects the testicles in the case of men and als ovaries when it comes to teenage women.

It is most common in men aged 15 to 35. They are classified into seminomes (less common in teenagers) i not seminomes.

The five-year survival rate reaches 95%the probability of cure being greater for seminomas.

When the cancer is in stage I, the treatment consists of one inguinal orchiectomy with or without chemotherapy. In advanced stages, treatment will depend on the risk group.

In women, in the ovaries, they are divided into dysgerminomas and no dysgerminomas. The former are the most common and the cure rate is higher.

Treatment includes surgery with or without fertility preservation and chemotherapy will depend on each case.

In addition, patients must undergo prolonged follow-up due to the risk of recurrence.

Hematological neoplasms

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

It is the most frequent form of leukemia in childhood, representing up to 80% of the cases.

The study reflects that the more peak incidence it is achieved in the first four years of life and even one 53.5% of patients are diagnosed under the age of twenty.

It is characterized by the proliferation of lymphoid cells in the bone marrow, peripheral blood and other organs.

In order to make the diagnosis, a bone marrow aspirate is required to confirm the existence of at least one 20% of blasts (immature precursors of white blood cells) in the bone marrow or their presence in peripheral blood.

To combat the disease is used a cytostatic treatmentwhich consists in the use of cytotoxic substances in order to remit the disease.

The five-year survival rate in teenagers is 61%.


It is another of the most frequent types of neoplasms among the AYAaffecting the lymphoid organs.

The 22% of neoplasms in patients between 15 and 24 years correspond to lymphomas, being 16% Hodgkin’s lymphomas and 6% non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

Survival at five years in Hodgkin’s lymphomas exceeds the 90% and to 75% in non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.

For its diagnosis, a blood test, a lymph node excisional biopsy, a bone marrow biopsy, a lumbar puncture and imaging tests are required.


The sarcomas they are connective tissue tumors characterized by their heterogeneity, with more than seventy recognized subtypes.

They represent the 6-15% of pediatric cancers and 11% of cancers in the population aged 15 to 29.

They are divided into bone and soft tissue sarcomas.

Sarcomas in this age group include tumors predominantly pediatric (such as rhabdiomyosarcomas), sarcomas typical of youth (such as Ewing’s sarcoma, osteosarcoma, and synovial gorse) and sarcomas typical of adults.

The prognosis varies with age and is significantly better in children than in young adults, as adolescents are usually diagnosed at more advanced stages.

The resources to end this type of tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and therapies directed against molecular targets (genes, proteins or molecules involved in the multiplication, dissemination and survival of cancer cells).

Adolescent cancer radiotherapy
Radiotherapy machine. EFE/David Aguilar

Brain tumors

According to experts, the brain tumors are the most important cause of cancer mortality in children and adolescents.

The symptoms include headache, vomiting or the presence of some neurological deficit, due to the increase in intracranial pressure.

The low-grade gliomas are the most frequent and surgical treatment is curative when the resection is complete. If complete resection is not possible, partial resection allows for long-term control.

When it comes to high-grade gliomasthe main prognostic factor depends on whether surgical resection has been greater than 90%.


This type of tumor that affects the skin does not usually occur in children, although the prevalence of this cancer in adolescents and young adults is increasing. Its malignant potential is more common in young people.

There is no specific treatment for melanoma in this age group, so its management is similar to melanoma in adults.

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