I have a friend, a previously healthy 18 year old girl, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind, and came as quite a shock to everyone. But it is not as unusual as you may think. While 15-19 is not a common age group for cancer risk, 5,000 young adults in this age range are diagnosed each year, and 600 don’t recover.

This got me thinking: should teens get screened for cancer? Can we be doing more? What are the risk factors?

Well it turns out, doctors don’t really recommend cancer screening in teens, unless risk factors and family history suggest otherwise. So in short, no, we can’t really be doing any more. Risk factors include a family member with cancer history, childhood cancer, or a history of symptoms.

The tricky thing about teens, is that it is a time of independence and changes. As cheesy as it is, many teens don’t see a physician regularly, and many symptoms are explained by hormones and puberty, or other common causes.

However, cancer is nothing to take lightly. Here is a list of symptoms associated with cancer:

  1. Unexplained or new lump / swelling. Common places are neck, stomach, and testicle.
  2. Loss of energy and general fatigue.
  3. Easier bruising and bleeding.
  4. Prolonged and unexplained pain in a central bodily location.
  5. Fever or illness that doesn’t go away.
  6. Vomiting due to headache.
  7. Sudden and extreme vision or eye changes
  8. Loss of appetite or unplanned weight loss or gain
  9. A new mole or skin spot that changes in size, shape, or color

Again, some of these symptoms are just those of growing up or other reasons, so careful monitoring and regular doctor visits can catch cancer early without needing monthly screenings.

Be vigilant and aware of any symptoms, but don’t be paranoid. Cancer is very rare in the teen age group, but still deserves a thought every once in a while.


Thanks, and stay healthy friends!