At 22, a young woman is faced with a life-changing reality: a 7-centimeter tumor in her throat, diagnosed as cancer. This story not only reveals her personal struggle but also a larger phenomenon affecting many young people today.

At an age when most are concerned about starting their careers or pursuing higher education, she was abruptly stopped by a terrifying diagnosis: throat cancer. This discovery was not a simple setback, but the result of a rare congenital anomaly, where a thyroglossal duct did not resolve as expected, unfortunately evolving into cancer with a 7-centimeter tumor. This case, although rare, highlights a troubling trend observed in young adults. Indeed, such a large tumor at such a young age seemed unreal. However, this diagnosis became a starting point for a quest for meaning and prevention reported in The Louisville Cardinal. Through her experience, she learned that cancer in young adults is on the rise, a trend that raises important questions about our lifestyle and healthcare system.

A diagnosis and awareness

The announcement of cancer is always a shock, but when you are young, it is even harder to process. Cancer, usually associated with older people, becomes a harsh reality for a growing number of young individuals. Her journey began with seemingly harmless symptoms, which turned out to be a sign of thyroid cancer. The tumor had formed along the thyroglossal duct, a rare medical peculiarity that placed her in an even smaller percentage of cases.

After the operation, she spent a lot of time researching cancers affecting young adults. The information was alarming: a significant increase in cancer cases among those under 50 has been observed, highlighting a worrying shift in public health trends.

The increase in cancers among the young: a wake-up call

According to a recent study in BMJ Oncology, “breast, tracheal, lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers in young adults have the highest mortality and morbidity rates.” This trend has led to a revision of the recommended ages for regular screenings, lowering, for example, the age for mammograms from 40 to 50 and for colorectal tests from 45 to 50.

Although Generation Z seems to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors, such as lower alcohol consumption and more frequent gym visits compared to previous generations, their deep immersion in social media is not without risks, as it normalizes unconventional eating habits like highly spicy and ultra-processed chips. Adopting such a trend, despite greater awareness of physical health, can paradoxically lead to long-term health problems. That is why access to regular check-ups and awareness of symptoms can be vital.

Prevention and awareness

Faced with this reality, prevention takes center stage. Adjustments to the recommended ages for screenings of various cancers are a step towards acknowledging this new trend. For most cancers, screening ages have been lowered, reflecting a necessary but still insufficient awareness.

Beyond systemic changes, her experience has led her to personally rethink her health: “Knowing your family history, being attentive to the body’s signals, and adopting a balanced life have become her new principles.” The illness has taught her the importance of not taking health for granted, even at a young age. It also emphasized “the impact of our lifestyle choices, from our diet to our engagement in digital activities, on our long-term well-being”.