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Teens and Cancer

Cancer affects people in many different ways, and teens face extreme emotional stress along with the physical effects of the disease. Many teens struggle to cope with powerful fears related to mortality when they or someone in their family is diagnosed with the disease. Even those whose families have not yet suffered from cancer will still feel the effects it has on their friends and peers. Signs that a teen is troubled and unable to easily cope with the development of this disease include:

  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Periods of depression and anxiety
  • Disengagement from friends and family
  • An unhealthy obsession with death and dying

Family and Friends With Cancer

An instance of cancer in a family member or friend may likely be the first brush with a terminal illness that teens experience in their lives. Teens with family members suffering from the effects of cancer are likely to become emotionally unsettled by the toll it takes on their loved one. It can be very painful to watch the slow decline of a person’s physical health or other faculties, as in the case of brain or other internal cancers. Teens may wish to withdraw from the situation or distance themselves from family members. Parents should take care to ensure that the teen understands the condition is not contagious and stress the importance of sharing what may be the final days, months or years of a person’s life as they battle with the disease.

Teens With Cancer

Cancer can be even more devastating for a teen who has the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children begin vaccinations designed to help prevent some types of cancer at the age of 11 or 12. Cancer instances are somewhat rare in teens, but few sufferers care about the numbers. Diagnosis of cancer can be devastating news for friends who may withdraw from the teen instead of offering support out of ignorance, confusion or an inability to deal with the emotional stress cancer can cause in loved ones. Teens with cancer can look to support groups sponsored by their school or local religious organizations for help and understanding, in addition to the support they gain from their family and friends.

Dealing With Emotional Stress

According to the CDC, suicide was the third-leading cause of death among teens in 2004. The emotional stress caused by cancer in a teen’s life can lead to suicidal behavior. In less extreme cases, many teens will become emotionally withdrawn and may suffer from clinical depression or anxiety attacks. Effectively dealing with this emotional stress is an important key in the process of understanding and acceptance that comes with terminal illness.

Many types of cancer are believed to have a genetic cause, and families face a number of unique challenges when the disease appears. Relatives may have some negative reactions, especially in cases of cancer instances in young family members, and may be concerned for their own health or that of their children. Many medical professionals offer cancer risk screenings, and family members should share family histories with cancer with their doctor or health care professional.

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