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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

with cancer.

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



dolescents and




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

and emotionally.

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?

14 Review