WHAT IS CANCER?
Any one of us can develop cancer. Anyone of any age. Cancer starts in our cells, the building blocks that make up the organs and tissues of our body.
Usually, these cells divide to make new cells in a controlled way. This is how our bodies grow, heal and repair.
Sometimes, this goes wrong and the cell becomes abnormal (mutated). The abnormal cell keeps dividing and making more and more abnormal cells. These get in the way of our healthy cells. What triggers these cells to go wrong is not always clear.
ANYONE OF ANY AGE CAN GET CANCER
Every day in the UK, 7 teenagers and young adults are diagnosed with cancer. Although cancer in young people is rare, it's important to recognise the warning signs. Get to know your body; be the expert of your body; listen to your body.
If you notice any of these warning signs or any other changes, chances are it is nothing to do with cancer but if it is UNEXPLAINED, PERSISTENT or EXTREME then it is worth seeing a doctor.
The common signs of cancer in young people are:
- Lump, bump or swelling - this can be anywhere in the body
- Unexplained tiredness - this is ongoing fatigue that even a good night's sleep doesn't help
- Mole changes - these could be changes in the size, shape, colour or texture of a mole
- Pain - specifically pain that doesn't go away with painkillers
- Significant weight change - this is if you haven't changed your diet, how much exercise you do or any medication you might be on
- Unexplained bruising and bleeding
If you are worried about your health, speak to your parents/carer/a responsible adult and a doctor - they will want to help you.
Remember, nobody knows how you feel better than you. You are the expert of your own body! Know your body and how to spot it something changes. If in doubt, get it checked out.
- YOU are the expert of your body
- If you spot changes, speak to someone
- Never ignore anything, it's better to get it checked
- Write down how you're feeling before you go to the doctor
- You may need to go back to your GP more than once
- No need to be embarrassed
LOVE YOUR BODY
The vast majority of cancers that affect young people are not down to anything they have done, it is purely bad luck. However, lifestyle is responsible for a large number of cancers later on in life.
However, lifestyle is responsible for a large number of cancers later on in life. The following lifestyle choices cannot guarantee you will never get cancer but will help you to reduce the risk, so making changes now can help you invest in your health in the long term.
- Avoid smoking - 90% of the cases of lung cancer are due to smoking
- Move more - be active and exercise regularly (at least an hour a day). Whether it's walking or windsurfing, do something every day.
- Eat well - a good diet and health weight can help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Try and have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
- Avoid binge drinking alcohol - the recommendation is to drink no more than 14 units a week. 14 units is roughly 7 drinks and the recommendation is to spread this over at least three days.
- Be safe in the sun - UV rays from the sun damage our skin. UVA rays are associated with skin ageing and UVB rays are responsible for sun burn. Exposure to the sun's UV rays causes 86% of skin cancer cases. UV rays can affect all skin types, but some skin types are more sensitive than others.
- Don't use sunbeds - the intensity of UVA rays in subeds can be more than ten times stronger than the midday sun.
- Know your body - be the expert of your body. If you do find a problem or are worried, remember to talk to someone they trust.
WHAT CANCERS COMMONLY AFFECT TEENAGERS?
Remember, cancer in young people is rare but these are the most common types that could affect your age group:
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Brain tumour
- Ovarian cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Lymphoma (Hodgkin or Non Hodgkin)
- Thyroid cancer
- Bone cancer
- Skin cancer
- Testicular cancer
WHAT WE DO
Teenage Cancer Trust make sure young people don't face cancer alone. We do it by helping young people and their families deal with the many ways that cancer can affect your body, your mind and your life.