Young people * Healthy living

Cancer in teenagers diagnosed late

Cancer in teenagers diagnosed late Teenage Cancer Awareness Week

Teenagers with cancer are often diagnosed late by doctors, a leading cancer charity said.

A survey carried out for The Teenage Cancer Trust found that one in four (24%) teenagers with cancer had to visit their GP at least four times before their symptoms were referred to a specialist, and two thirds (61%) thought their diagnosis could have been made quicker.

At the start of the first Teenage Cancer Awareness Week, the charity is aiming to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer in 13 to 24 year-olds, as well as in parents, teachers and health professionals.

The survey of 300 people with cancer aged between 13 and 24 was carried out at a Teenage Cancer Trust conference.

A fifth (21%) of patients surveyed reported that their GP's did not refer them to a specialist at all, despite nearly two thirds (59%) presenting at least two of the most common cancer symptoms, including pain, lump or swelling, tiredness, headache or drastic weight loss.

The charity said the findings highlight the serious issue of delayed diagnosis of cancer in young people, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

More than a third of young cancer patients said they thought that learning about cancer at school would have helped them recognise their symptoms earlier, and 59 per cent said they wanted it to be included in the national curriculum.

The charity has produced a teaching pack for schools to help staff inform young people about cancer and to help them understand and be more aware of their own bodies.

Simon Davies, chief executive of Teenage Cancer Trust, said: "We have been urging for cancer to be on the national curriculum for many years. We're still waiting.

"That's why we've developed our own education team to help teachers tackle this difficult topic and created teenage cancer awareness week to help raise awareness of the five most common signs of cancer."

Professor Sir Mike Richards, national clinical director for cancer, said: "Early diagnosis is best achieved through the education of young people to increase their confidence in talking to doctors and helping everyone recognise the signs and symptoms of cancer in this age group."

The five most common symptoms and warning signs of cancer that young people should be aware of are unexplained and persistent pain; a lump, bump or swelling; extreme tiredness; significant weight loss and changes in a mole.

More information: Teenage Cancer Awareness Week

This article was published on Mon 30 April 2012

Image © Alexander Raths -

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