NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults - page 6

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults
Version 2013
Part 1: But I’m too young to have cancer!
You’re not alone
Finding out you have cancer is hard. Finding out you
have cancer when you’re still in high school, or college,
or just starting a career or a family can be even harder.
Every year in the U.S. (
tates), more than 70,000
AYAs (
dolescents and
dults)—people between
15 and 39 years old—are diagnosed with cancer. So if
you’ve just been diagnosed, you are anything but alone.
Dealing with cancer is different for AYAs. As a young
person with cancer you face special challenges and bring
special strengths to the fight to get well. You also need
different kinds of support than older patients, whose
bodies are no longer changing, and whose lives, careers,
families, and financial situations may be more settled and
To get the best possible treatment and support, it’s
important to understand what you have and what your
options are. The information on the following pages is
designed to help you understand what’s happening in
your body and make it easier for you to take an active
part in the treatment process.
Cancer basics
The human body contains billions of cells that serve as
the building blocks for everything from your brain to your
toenails. Each of these cells is controlled by instructions
contained in DNA—the genetic code that tells cells what
to become (lung, heart, skin, etc.), what to do, (make
hormones, absorb nutrients, kill germs, etc.), and when
to die. Normal cells are programmed to die after a certain
time—or when they become damaged—so that new cells
can take their place (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Normal cell growth
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