Why cancer strikes young adults particularly hard
The diagnosis of cancer is a severe blow to everyone. Young adults who develop it usually have a particularly hard time. They are often still in training or studying. In addition, they are often not optimally cared for.
Improve help for young cancer patients
Why me? How should I continue my life? What pains do I have? Such questions usually arise immediately when cancer is diagnosed in patients. Everyone must then quickly find an answer to the question “What is important now?”. Young people who develop cancer often have a particularly strong diagnosis. Quite a few of them are in the middle of their studies, some have small children. The “Young Adults with Cancer” foundation wants to improve aid for patients in this age group.
Serious cut in life planning
The idea for the foundation founded by the German Society for Hematology and Medical Oncology (DGHO) “is based on the knowledge that cancer diagnosis, especially for patients aged 18 to 39 years, has a serious impact on the entire life and future planning means “, the foundation writes on its website.
"The problems and challenges differ significantly from both patients in the field of pediatric oncology and oncology in adults aged 40 and over," it continues.
Young adults with cancer are better off in children's oncology
According to a report by the dpa news agency, the foundation reported that on average around 15,000 people between the ages of 18 and 39 get cancer each year. With a total of around 480,000 new cancers per year, that's almost three percent.
Because doctors do not always immediately think of cancer in young patients, diagnoses can be delayed. Doctors also sometimes accept waiting times for them, for example for MRI examinations. "I am sometimes shocked by the timing," said the Göttingen children's oncologist Christof Kramm about cancer treatment for adults.
For young adults with cancer, it is therefore better to be treated in a child's oncology clinic. "A 23-year-old is sure to be better carried by the overall atmosphere of a children's ward than if he is lying next to an 80-year-old," says Kramm. On the one hand, there is a better care key for wards for children and adolescents, and on the other hand, there are more psychologists and social workers.
Some cancers affect younger people more often
Some cancers hit young adults more often than average. According to the foundation, these include skin cancer, cervical cancer, testicular cancer, breast cancer, sarcomas (affected bone, cartilage and adipose tissue) and Hodgkin lymphoma (affected lymphatic system).
Worry about lack of financial security
The lack of financial security also plays a major role for young people affected: “Suddenly, patients are faced with special problems and decisions even outside of the illness: wanting to have children and family planning, a possible interruption of the training path or economic and social emergencies. Issues that come to the fore alongside the best possible medical cancer therapy, ”says the Foundation's website.
Cancer sufferers have been given their apartment
"We have had cases in which students with cancer cut their BAföG or quit their apartment," said foundation spokeswoman Frauke Frodl in the dpa report. "In contrast to children, adolescents and older patients, the topic of desire to have children is of paramount importance," explained Inken Hilgendorf, oncologist at the Jena University Hospital.
In any case, the risk of infertility as a result of necessary therapies must be addressed from the start. According to the foundation, health insurance companies do not usually fund the freezing of egg cells and sperm before chemotherapy. If young adults have already started a family at the time of diagnosis, they are burdened with worry about the child and the separation during the hospital stays.
Good cure rates
It is gratifying that there are now better therapies for young adults with cancer. The cure rate is good, around 80 percent of young people survive the disease. However, there are only a few studies on the long-term consequences of successful therapies in people between 18 and 39 years of age.
According to the head of the German Childhood Cancer Registry at Mainz University Medical Center, Peter Kaatsch, adults treated as children for cancer have a double-digit percentage of late effects such as kidney or brain damage. A future goal of the therapy must be that the patients survive the cancer without any long-term consequences. (ad)