NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Version 1.2017
You are not alone.
Part 1 shares what it means to be an AYA.
Learn cancer basics and understand the
special needs—and strengths—of AYAs
Who is an AYA?
Finding out you have cancer is hard. It can be even
harder for someone who is in school, just starting a
career, or starting a family. But you are not alone and
there are survivors out there just like you.
Every year in the U.S., more than 70,000 AYAs
dults)—people between 15
and 39 years old—are diagnosed with cancer. So if
you’ve just been diagnosed, it is time to learn all you
can and to get the help you need—both physically
Dealing with cancer is different for AYAs. As a
young person with cancer you may face 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
who are at a different stage of life.
To get the best possible treatment and support, it’s
important to understand your type of cancer and what
the 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 your treatment plan.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a disease that starts in the cells of your
body. The human body contains trillions of cells that
serve as the building blocks for everything from your
brain to your toenails. Each of these cells has a
purpose. Your DNA controls cells using instructions
on what to do. The instructions are called genes
and are found in the DNA. Genes tell cells what to
become (for example, lung, heart, and skin) and what
to do (make hormones, absorb nutrients, and kill
See Figure 1.
But I'm too young
to have cancer!
8 Who is an AYA?
8 What is cancer?
12 What should I know about AYAs?