Cancer occurrence is on the rise in young adults and is often diagnosed at a late stage. Denise Rokitka, MD, MPH, Director of the Young Adult Program and Oncofertility Program at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses how primary care physicians can aid in diagnosing cancer earlier in young adults.
I'm DR Rocca. I am the director of the young adult and the uncle fertility program at Roswell Park. I'm also a pediatric oncologist. So I see patients for young adult consultations and fertility preservation discussions. So there's an estimated 90,000 new young adults diagnosed with cancer per year. About 9000 deaths per year. The young adult years are are most productive years in life. And so there's a lot of quality of life lost within that age group. Cancer re occurrence is on the rise in young adults. In a recent study, the estimated increases about 30% over last several decades. Specifically colon cancer, we see a rise in melanoma and thyroid cancers as well. It's not really clear why that increases occurring. We think that it may be environmental or lifestyle factors like obesity, lack of exercise, possibly other contaminants in our environment. We know that one of the reasons that outcomes when research is lagging and young adults is clinical trial participation and that's not something that you can get outside of the hospital setting. Cancer and young adults is often found at a later stage and it's probably multifactorial. We know that sometimes primary physicians don't think that their patients will have cancer and at that age group, so we'll refer to common things like it's reflux or it's something else. But also there's a lot of young adults that don't have insurance and so they don't come to their physicians in a timely fashion either in general. Um, some of the symptoms you would want to look for our persistent fevers, weight loss, unintended weight loss, Bone pain that wakes you up at night, night sweats, anything that just seems a little out of the norm for somebody that at that age. The young adult program here is geared towards patients aged 18-39. When we see a patient, we often refer them to our psychosocial team and our psychologist, even if it's just for an intake to make sure that they're adjusting emotionally. And if not they always have a contact in person as well. We can offer integrative medicine. So things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, um physical therapy, social work can sometimes help with finances and other other areas that are of concern. It's really important for primary care doctors to validate and to listen to patients concerns because we know it's difficult to diagnose young adults with cancer in this age group because it is a rare event. However, if patients are presenting with persistent symptoms, they need to be evaluated and taken seriously. Uh huh.