Teenage and young adult cancers

Cancer is rare in teenagers and young adults. However, if you are worried about any changes to your body, it’s important to get these checked out. At the end of this section, you can find links to organisations that can offer information and support in relation to teenage and young adult cancers.

Signs and symptoms

Being aware of signs and symptoms of cancer is important. It can help in earlier detection and treatment. There are many signs and symptoms of cancer but having any of them doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms you should ask your doctor to check out:

  • changes on your skin or to an existing mole (such as itching, bleeding or a change in shape or colour);
  • a lump anywhere on your body;
  • a sore that doesn’t heal;
  • unexplained, significant weight loss (5kg/10lbs over a couple of months);
  • unexplained bruising;
  • headaches or dizziness that won’t go away;
  • symptoms that refuse to clear up, eg a cough or hoarseness that lasts for more than three weeks;
  • blood in urine;
  • blood mixed through bowel motion (stools);
  • a change in bowel habit that lasts for more than six weeks;
  • coughing up blood;

If you have any of these, it is important to get them checked out, especially if they are persistent and you can’t explain them. You are not wasting anyone's time, and if it isn't serious, your mind will be put at ease.

Teenage and young adult cancer in Northern Ireland

There were 76 teenagers and young adults, aged between 14-25, diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland in 2012.1 Cancer is rare in teenagers and young adults, accounting for 1% of cancers at all ages.2

Testicular, lymphomas, brain and other Central Nervous System (CNS), and leukaemia are the most common cancers in males aged 14-24. Thyroid, cervix, bowel and ovary are the most common cancers in females aged 14-24.3

Lifestyle choices

It’s important to look after yourself, now and in the future. Over 40% of cancers in the UK are related to lifestyle choices.4 You can help reduce your risk with a few simple changes in your daily life and adopting a healthier lifestyle. There are some important choices you can make to reduce your cancer risk.

The healthier the lifestyle you can lead now can help decrease the risk of cancer in the future.


There are a number of websites that provide useful information relating to teenagers and young adults and cancer including:

This is not an exhaustive list and other sources of support in Northern Ireland can also be accessed via Northern Ireland Cancer Network.


Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, Cancer Incidence Figures 2008-2012 for 14-24 year olds


3 http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/teenage-and-young-adult-cancer/incidence/#By2