Approximately 70,000 young adults aged 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year. In this age group, it is the 4th leading cause of death. Each year, about 9,000 young adults die from cancer. Improvements in treatments and survival have been relatively the same in the past few decades, in contrast to childhood and older adult cancer.

The most common forms of cancer in young adults include breast cancer, lymphomas (non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin), melanoma, sarcomas (cancers of connective tissues like muscles and bones), cancers of the female genital tract (cervix and ovary), thyroid cancer, testicular cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia, and brain and spinal cord tumors.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute notes that the most common symptoms of cancer young adults should be aware of are:

  • An unusual lump or swelling in the neck, breast, belly, testicle, or elsewhere
  • Unexplained tiredness and loss of energy
  • Easy bruising
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Ongoing pain in one part of the body
  • Unexplained fever or illness that doesn’t go away
  • Frequent headaches, often with vomiting
  • Sudden eye or vision changes
  • Loss of appetite or unplanned weight loss
  • A new mole or other spot on the skin, or one that changes in size, shape, or color

To improve chances of early detection, it is suggested that young adults get checked for certain cancers at their regular physical checkups. For young women, these routine checkups should also include a breast exam every two to three years. In addition, at age 21, women should be screened for cervical cancer with Pap tests.

Lifestyle and environmental factors like smoking, exposure to sun or tanning, or unsafe sex practices can increase a young person’s chance of getting cancer when they are older.

For young adults with cancer, it is particularly important to speak with doctors about how treatment will affect fertility.

To find more information about young adult cancer, support and grants, we recommend visiting:

Local Resources

Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes offers breast exams, cervical cancer screenings and Pap tests for little to no cost. Free cervical screenings (pap/pelvic exams) are available for many women through the Cancer Services Program of Cortland and Tompkins Counties.

Emotional Support

Young adult

Did you know? The Cancer Resource Center offers a Young Adults Support Group
for people 20-40ish with cancer (partners welcome.) Light dinner provided. The group meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month from 5:30-7pm at CRCFL. On the 4th Tuesday CRC cares about kids provides supervised play for children of group members.


Daryl’s story: A Young Adult with Cancer

During the month of April, we highlighted Young Adults with Cancer Awareness week.  We also talked to a young adult with cancer, Daryl Pace.  Daryl shares some of her personal story in this video, and how a cancer diagnosis can impact the life of a young adult.  Daryl is braving cancer while she is braving fires and emergencies on the job at the Ithaca Fire Department.  Hear the unique story how she first learned about the CRC and how she has benefited from our programs.  Thank you for sharing your story to help other young adults!


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