Being a Young Adult With Cancer

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2015

Watch the "Moving Forward" video series for young adults, adapted from this content.

Young adults may develop cancers more common in children and teens. Or, they may develop cancers more common in adults.

Types of cancer young adults may develop

The following types of cancers are the most common among young adults:

Challenges for young adults with cancer

Young adults with cancer have different challenges than older and younger people with cancer. Some of the challenges that affect diagnosis and treatment are listed here:

  • A young adult and his or her doctor may not act on symptoms of cancer because it is uncommon. Some symptoms may be similar to the symptoms on noncancerous conditions.

  • Young adults may not have health insurance. Or, they have limited financial resources to pay for cancer treatment, even if they have health insurance. Find out more about managing the cost of your cancer care.

  • Many young adults have no previous experience receiving care for a complex diagnosis, such as cancer. As such, they may have trouble navigating the health care system. Learn more about managing your cancer care.

Young adults also have a wide range of emotional, physical, and social concerns, including relationships, sexuality, parenthood, education, and employment.

Learning about cancer

Finding out more information about cancer and knowing what to expect during treatment may help you feel more in control and less anxious. Here are some ways to find cancer information:

  • Speak up during your doctor’s appointments and ask questions. Talk about the cancer, how you are feeling, and your treatment plan with your doctor. Bring a family member or friend with you to your appointments. This person can help take notes and remember important information.

  • Go to one of the many sites about cancer available online, including those written for young adults. Just remember that not everything you read on the Internet is reliable and up-to-date. Ask your doctor or nurse to recommend some good websites. Learn more about how to evaluate cancer information on the Internet.

  • Get in touch with support groups for young adults who are going through or have recovered from the same cancer as you.

  • Go to the library and ask the librarian to help you find information about your type of cancer.

There is a lot of information available about cancer, so don't feel like you have to read everything right away. Talk about the information you find online with your doctor or nurse.

Asking for help

Coping with cancer is often difficult and most people need support. Support usually comes from different sources. And, many young adults need different kinds of support throughout the cancer experience. Here are some suggests for where to find support and help:

  • Talk with family, a friend, teacher, or religious advisor. Find someone you trust can help you sort through your thoughts and feelings.

  • Seek professional help. Speaking to a counselor, social worker, or therapist to talk through your feelings about cancer can be very valuable. In addition, a social worker can help connect you with support groups. Ask your doctor to recommend someone who has experience working with young adults with cancer.

  • Talk with other young adults with cancer. Other young adults with cancer may share your fears and concerns. They can offer emotional support and suggestions for talking with your doctor and balancing school, work, or family life. Learn more about finding support groups for young adults with cancer.

  • Connect online. The Internet and social media can be helpful tools to connect with other young adults with cancer. Sometimes people find that communicating online is easier than talking in person, especially if you are discussing difficult issues. Learn more about online communities for support.

  • Write about the experience. Writing may help you process your experience with cancer. You may feel like writing about personal thoughts, feelings, dreams, stories, or poems.

More Information

When the Doctor Says Cancer

Resources for Young Adults With Cancer