T E E N A G E R S
Teenagers do not often get cancer.
Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer. It usually appears in teenager boys, often during their growth spurts. Osteosarcoma affects twice as many boys as girls and tends to show up in people who are taller than average. Certain medical problems that may be caused by genes, such as retinoblastoma, a tumor that develops in the retina of the eye, may predispose some teenagers to develop osteosarcoma. The same is true if a teenager has received bone radiation treatments for other cancers.
The most common symptoms of osteosarcoma are pain and swelling in an arm or leg that is sometimes accompanied by a lump. Some people have more pain at night or when they exercise . Osteosarcoma is most often found in the bones around the knee but can occur in other bones as well. In rare cases, a tumor can spread or metastasize beyond the bone to nerves and blood vessels of the limb.
Treatment for osteosarcoma usually involves chemotherapy (intravenous, or IV, medication that kills cancer cells) as well as surgery to remove the tumor. In the rare cases where these procedures can't fight the cancer completely, a doctor may need to amputate (remove) part or all of the limb to fight the cancer. A doctor may perform limb-salvage surgery , where the bone that has cancer is removed and the limb (usually an arm or leg) is saved from amputation by filling the gap with a bone graft or special metal rod.
Another type of cancer that affects the bone is Ewing's sarcoma . It is similar to osteosarcoma in that it also affects teenagers and young adults and is usually located in the leg or pelvis.
Osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma share common risk factors and side effects from treatment. Chances for recovery depend upon where the tumor is located, its size, and whether it has spread. But both types of bone cancer respond well to treatment and are curable in many cases.
Leukemia is one of the most common childhood cancers. It occurs when large numbers of abnormal white blood cells called leukemic blasts fill the bone marrow and sometimes enter the bloodstream.
Because these abnormal blood cells are defective, they don't help protect the body against infection the way normal white blood cells do. And because they grow uncontrollably, they take over the bone marrow and interfere with the body's production of other important types of cells in the bloodstream, like red blood cells (which carry oxygen) and platelets (which help blood to clot).
Leukemia causes problems like bleeding, anemia (low numbers of red blood cells), bone pain, and infections. It can also spread to other places like the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, brain, and the testicles in males.
The types of leukemia most likely to occur in teenagers are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
Virtually all people with ALL and AML are treated with chemotherapy, and some also receive stem cell transplants , in which they are given new stem cells from another person. Bone marrow transplants are a common form of stem cell transplantation. Some people also receive radiation. The length of treatment and types of medicine given will vary depending on the type of leukemia.
The chances for a cure are very good with certain kinds of leukemia. With treatment, most patients with ALL and many patients with AML are free of the disease without reocurrence.
Brain tumors are not common in teenagers. There are two types - primary brain tumors start from cells in the brain and secondary brain tumors come from a cancer that started in another part of the body (e.g., osteosarcoma) and spread to the brain.
Most brain tumors in teenagers are primary. Two of the most common forms are astrocytomas and ependymomas. Astrocytomas are tumors of the brain that originate from cells in the brain called astrocytes. This type of tumor doesn't usually spread outside the brain and spinal cord and doesn't usually affect other organs. Ependymomas are tumors that usually begin in the lining of brain ventricles. The brain has four ventricles, or cavities, that are a pathway for cerebrospinal fluid , a liquid substance that cushions the brain and spine and protects them from trauma.
No one knows the exact cause of primary brain cancer. One possibility is that as the brain and spinal cord were forming, a problem with the cells occurred.
Treatments vary depending upon the type and location of the tumor. If it is possible to remove a tumor, surgery is usually performed, followed by radiation. Some patients receive chemotherapy as well.
The chance of surviving a brain tumor depends on its type, location, and treatment. But there is a very good chance that if the tumor can be removed and additional treatment is given, the cancer can be cured.
Lymphoma refers to cancer that develops in the lymphatic system , which includes the lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, adenoids, tonsils, and bone marrow. The lymph system functions in the body by fighting off germs that cause infection and illness. Most teenagers with lymphoma have either Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph tissue) or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the cells of the immune system that circulate throughout the body).
Hodgkin's disease usually occurs in adolescents and young adults. It can show up in lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, chest, or other places. The lymph nodes become enlarged but are usually not painful. Hodgkin's disease is identified by large, unusual cells called Reed-Sternberg cells that are detected under a microscope after a biopsy, a procedure in which a doctor removes a small tissue sample to examine it for cancer cells. Chemotherapy and often radiation are used to treat Hodgkin's disease.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is similar to leukemia (ALL) because both involve malignant lymphocytes (pronounced: lim -fuh-sytes), white blood cells found in lymph nodes, and because many of the symptoms of these diseases are the same. NHL is usually treated with chemotherapy.
Most teenagers with Hodgkin's disease or NHL who have completed their treatment achieve a complete remission with no signs of the disease.
Other cancers that teenagers may get - although they are generally rare - include testicular cancer and rhabdomyosarcomas.
Although testicular cancer is actually rare in teenager boys, overall it is the most common cancer in males ages 15 to 35. Testicular cancer is almost always curable if it is caught and treated early. Boys should learn how to examine their testicles regularly to detect any abnormal lumps or bumps, which are usually the earliest sign of testicular cancer.
Rhabdomyosarcomas , or soft tissue sarcomas, are less common cancers that mostly occur in infants, kids, and teenagers. With these cancers, cancer cells grow in the soft tissues of the skeletal muscles (the body's muscles that a person controls for movement). Though these cancers can occur anywhere in the body, rhabdomyosarcomas most frequently happen within the muscles in the trunk, arms, or legs. The types of treatment used and chances for recovery depend upon where the rhabdomyosarcoma is located and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.