Cancer is more common among older people, but isn’t limited just to them.
While the survival rate among younger adults is relatively high, survivors may have to deal with some challenges beyond the initial illness, including:
- Infertility: Loss of the ability to father children. Young males with certain kinds of cancers may experience loss of the ability to produce sperm.
- Cholostomy: the diversion of the intestine to a portal created in the skin. This is done in cases in which a portion of the intestine has to be removed due to infection on cancer. Waste matter empties into a removable bag attached to the port with the patient required to keep the port clean and sterile.
- Anxiety about cancer and/or the risk of recurrence.
The National Cancer Institute reports some cancer patients showing symptoms of PTSD.(2) All of these challenges pose the potential for disruption, depending on the patient’s life, support network, goals and ambitions. The patient’s mindset going into treatment and issues with work or home life can have a good deal to do with how debilitating these challenges become.
Medscape reports that while the infertility issue might be a relatively easy item to address, patients aren’t being told about their options.(3) The quick fix is the use of a sperm bank to preserve sperm prior to cancer treatment. However, perhaps due to incorrect perceptions of cost, most patients aren’t being told about this option. A survey of cancer patients in 2020 found that fewer than half were told about the option. Among teens, the percentage fell to 25%.
“Once a man has no sperm, all the money in the world can’t replace that. It’s an invaluable insurance policy,”Robert Brannigan MD, professor of urology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago
It’s both ethical and essential that patients combating serious illness understand the range of options available and the risks, and know what they can and should do in advance of treatment. That’s true of all patients, but especially of younger cancer patients. With an overall 80% chance of surviving cancer, younger patients will face a long life of living with the side effects of their treatment.
Standard caveat: I’m a researcher and health insurance specialist. I don’t provide medical advice. The Affordable Care Act was designed to give every American access to healthcare. Use it.
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