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Teach young people the 5

common signs of cancer and

you could help save a life.

Cancer in young people age 13 to 24 is sometimes hard to

diagnose. This is because:




It’s rare, with around 2,500 new cases

diagnosed each year.

signs are very similar to other less

harmful health problems.

This is why it’s vitally important that everyone knows the

5 most common signs of cancer in young people so it can

be spotted early if it does occur. Most of the time these

symptoms will be nothing to worry about but it’s always

best to get it checked.

Empower young people to take control of their health and

help them spot when something changes. Give them the

confidence to be persistent at the doctors if their health

problems aren’t being solved. Help them understand

that healthy lifestyle choices could protect them against

developing cancer in later life.


Contact details and guide 2

Real life experiences of cancer 3 - 8

A glossary of terms 9





(meaning you don’t know what’s causing them), and...


(meaning they don’t ever go away)


(that doesn’t go away with painkillers)




(meaning you find it hard to stay awake)



(more than a few pounds)





1) LYMPHOMA (21%)












We have created some materials to help you teach

students about the 5 most common signs of cancer

in young people. We know cancer is rare in this age

group but that’s why it’s important for young people

to know, so it can be spotted early if it does occur.

Most of the time these symptoms will be nothing to

worry about but it’s always best to get them checked.

You could use our PowerPoint presentation in an

assembly to raise awareness with a year group.

You could use our Education pack with a class or

tutor group to get them talking about cancer and

using the case studies to kick start those discussions.

You could download our posters and put them

up around school to encourage students to find

out more.


We are here to help! You can contact us with any

questions you may have about cancer in young people,

teaching students about the common signs of cancer

or fundraising to support our work. You can also find

out more about our education programme here on our

learning hub


Our website contains lots of information about cancer in

young people, our work, how you can get involved and

Teenage Cancer Action Week.

You’ll find posters, leaflets, a PowerPoint presentation

and this teaching pack, as well as materials based on

young people’s experiences which can be tailored for

the time you have available.

Twitter: @teenagecancer

Instagram: @teenage_cancer





Malignant melanoma is the most common cancer in young

women in the UK aged between 15 and 24.

Malignant melanoma usually develops in cells in the

outer layer of the skin. The first signs may be a change

in the normal look or feel of a mole, although malignant

melanoma can also develop in normal-looking skin.

Melanoma is very serious because the cancer can spread

to other organs in the body. This spread is known as


The main cause of melanoma is believed to be overexposure

to the sun. Using sunbeds and sunlamps can also

increase your risk of developing melanoma.

The main treatment for malignant melanoma is surgery

to remove the affected area, and this is often all the

treatment most people need. However, sometimes

radiotherapy and chemotherapy can also be used.


How old were you at diagnosis? 22.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

How was it diagnosed?

How long did the diagnosis take?

What treatment did you have?

What are you doing now?

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

I was working as a nurse in a small nursery in Worcester.

Malignant melanoma.

I had a mole on my left arm. In less than a year I noticed it had grown a considerable amount and I was feeling

really tired so I went to my doctors. The doctor told me there was nothing wrong with the mole and if they were

to take it off it would leave me with a big scar for no reason. A few months later I went to a different doctor with a

chest infection. She saw the mole on my arm and referred me to a dermatologist where I was monitored for three

months. They removed the mole to be on the safe side but a week later I was asked to return to the hospital. They

discovered that it was actually malignant melanoma.

Nearly 9 months.

Emergency surgery.

I am now Deputy Manager at a large London-based nursery.

The impact on my life has been huge. I am now very VERY cautious in the sun and even wear sun cream every day

(even in December, just a low factor on my face!). I talk about my cancer at every opportunity to raise as much

awareness as I can, as so many people believe that it only effects older people which is just not true.

The experience has obviously changed the way I feel about the sun and looking after myself. I was never a huge

sun worshipper anyway, however I am now more aware of the danger the sun can cause. I regularly try to raise

awareness of the danger of sunbeds and my friends get sick of me insisting they wear sun cream!

My 2 top tips would be- there is no such thing as a healthy tan! If your skin has changed colour at all it is

because it is damaged. If you really must be brown then fake it don’t bake it! Always make sure you protect

your skin at the start of the season as that is when it is most vulnerable!




Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer found

in young people. It is a cancer of the lymphatic system,

which is part of your immune system. Clear fluid

called lymph flows through the lymphatic system and

contains infection-fighting white blood cells known

as lymphocytes.

There are two types of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s lymphoma

and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, each affecting a different

type of lymphocyte.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the second most common type

of cancer found in young people. It can spread through

the body quickly. However, despite this it’s also one of

the most treatable types of cancer.

Lymphoma is treated with chemotherapy and also

sometimes radiotherapy. Steroids can also be used.


How old were you at diagnosis? 22.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

How was it diagnosed?

How long did the diagnosis take?

What treatment did you have?

What are you doing now?

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

I had just returned from a gap year in Australia.

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

I had bad pains in my chest and was struggling to breathe so I went to my GP who said I had a chest infection

and was tired after a long flight. I noticed I was losing weight so I returned to the doctor. I eventually went to A&E

and demanded an x-ray which picked up a large mass in my chest.

I went to the doctors four times before going to A&E where my cancer was picked up.

I had chemotherapy and then radiotherapy, but relapsed so needed more chemotherapy and a bone marrow

transplant. I lost my hair, was often sick and my weight fluctuated. I was treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit

and the support I received was amazing. When I was well enough the Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support

Coordinator took me on a few days out and helped me get work experience at Mace Foundation, an international

consultancy and construction company.

Following my work experience at Mace, I was offered a job there as a Human Resources Administrator. I was so

lucky to have the opportunity to have this placement, which has consequently helped me rebuild my life.

Having cancer affected lots of things in my life, including relationships. It brought me closer to my boyfriend

(now husband). I saw that relationships can become strained when facing cancer and I experienced this through

some of my friendships.

I am happily in remission, but I worry all the time that it might come back. I catch most bugs going around but as

time goes on I recover quicker.

Listen to your body, if you are tired, rest and if you are hungry, eat! Every person reacts differently so don’t

compare yourself to anyone.




Bone cancer (or osteosarcoma) is a tumour that grows

inside a bone. Teenagers and young adults are the

most commonly affected age group, but bone cancer

can occur at any age. It can develop in any bone, but is

usually found in areas where the bone is growing quickly,

like near the ends of the long bones in legs and arms.

The treatment for most bone cancers is chemotherapy

to shrink the tumour and then surgery to remove the

affected part of the bone.



How old were you at diagnosis? 17.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

I was at East Kent College studying catering. I was in my second year of the course and really loved it but I had

to drop out soon after the diagnosis.

Osteosarcoma and secondary lung cancer.

How was it diagnosed? I was having really bad back pain so I went to my doctor who referred me to a physio, which I attended for 6

months. It was whilst I was there that a pain in my right thigh started to develop. The doctors thought it was

muscle tightness but it didn’t get any better so I visited another GP. I was sent immediately for a MRI scan and

ultrasound on my hip and back.

How long did the diagnosis take?

7 months.

What treatment did you have?

What are you doing now?

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

I had 6 cycles of chemotherapy and an operation. I have undergone a further 6 cycles of chemotherapy for the

lung tumour.

I went back to college in September 2014 to complete the level 3 course in catering. Although it was tough juggling

treatment and college work, I managed to finish the course. Cooking is my passion and it’s been a huge

help to me during my treatment. I’ve also started a blog to share recipes and talk about my cancer.

It really hit me hard; I’d never really thought about getting cancer, especially at such a young age, I don’t think

anyone could be prepared for it. Obviously it’s a really hard thing to deal with and treatment can be pretty hard

but it really helps to have such great support from my friends, family, my college and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Having such amazing support makes a difference and I think that’s what keeps me the happy, strong individual

that I’d like to think I am. Also I save so much money on shampoo which definitely isn’t bad!

I was recently re-diagnosed with lung cancer and I took it a lot better than my first diagnosis! I know what to

expect from my treatment now which was probably the scariest thing in the first place. I’m coming to the end

of my treatment now and I still often worry about my health but having regular scans and chats with the

doctors always reassures me.

If you have a persistent pain that just won’t go away then what’s the harm in going to get it checked out?

Chances are it’s nothing, but if it is something then getting it caught sooner rather than later is so important!




A malignant brain tumour is a fast-growing cancer that spreads to other areas of

the brain and spine and can affect people of any age. Generally, brain tumours

are graded from 1 to 4 according to how fast they grow and how likely they are to

spread. A malignant brain tumour will be graded as 3 or 4, whereas grade 1 or 2

tumours are classed as benign or non-cancerous brain tumours.

It’s very important that a malignant brain tumour is treated as soon as possible

because they can spread quickly and damage other parts of the brain and spine.

The tumour is usually operated on and as much of it removed as possible. This may

be followed with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


How old were you at diagnosis? 18.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

How was it diagnosed?

How long did the diagnosis take?

I was about to take my AS exams.

Brain tumour and an arachnoid cyst.

I was suffering from headaches, then one morning I woke up with numbness in my right hand and slurred

speech. I went to my GP, who referred me to my opticians, who then referred me to the eye outpatients at

the local hospital. They admitted me overnight ready for the CT scan in the morning. I was then taken by

ambulance to the neurological hospital where they diagnosed me with a brain tumour and an arachnoid cyst.

I had numerous visits to the GP and it was only when I saw another GP that things started to get picked up.

What treatment did you have?

I had 11 operations (10 between May - July 2009, one in June 2011), 6 weeks radiotherapy and an IVF half cycle

in 2014. I was advised to have the half cycle of IVF due to where the brain tumour is, near the pituitary gland,

which produces and regulates hormones. As I am a young woman, it made sense to have it and have my eggs

frozen just in case, whether or not my fertility was affected by the radiotherapy. The side effects of the operations

were pretty bad. I had headaches, sickness, tiredness, mood swings, double vision and loss of feeling on

the left side of my face.

What are you doing now? I re-did my final year and graduated in July 2015.

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

Having cancer definitely affected my relationships, especially with friends and my (now ex) boyfriend.

I also had to leave university for a semester during my final year due to my treatment.

I view my health as pretty good, I finished treatment last year and I have annual MRI scans. I obviously have

down days, but I just pick myself up and think about the future.

Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, get it checked out and always try and see the positive.

I know that’s difficult, but sometimes it’s the only way to get through something like this.




Leukaemia is cancer of the cells in bone marrow. Bone

marrow is the tissue found inside our bones, and is where

new blood cells are made.

There are several different types of leukaemia, each

affecting a different type of blood cell – usually white

blood cells. The word leukaemia actually comes from

a Greek word which means ‘white blood.’ In this way

leukaemia is similar to lymphoma, which also affects white

blood cells.

Leukaemia can also either be ‘acute’ or ‘chronic’. Acute

leukaemia affects young blood cells and spreads quickly.

Chronic leukaemia affects more mature blood cells

meaning it grows more slowly.

Treatments include chemotherapy sometimes followed

in extreme cases by stem cell (bone marrow) transplants.

To have a bone marrow transplant, total body irradiation

(intense radiotherapy) is also needed to stop the immune

system rejecting the donor marrow.


How old were you at diagnosis? 20.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

How was it diagnosed?

How long did the diagnosis take?

What treatment did you have?

What are you doing now?

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

I was looking to join the British Army.

Acute myeloid leukaemia.

From a blood test.

I hadn’t been feeling right for about 3 months, following a bout of tonsillitis. I went to the doctor who diagnosed

me pretty quickly. I was told if they had caught the cancer just 3 days later then there was a chance I would

have had a stroke or died. It was really frightening hearing that but I told myself no matter what, this wouldn’t

beat me.

I had chemotherapy, full body irradiation and a bone marrow transplant. I had graft-versus-host disease after

the transplant, which is pretty common, and means the donor cells had reacted against my own skin. I was

treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit, which was unbelievable. The Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support

Coordinator offered me so much help and to this day is still there for me.

I am planning to fundraise this year. During treatment, my taekwondo team and I raised £5,000. I have since run

a half marathon, taken part in a Spartan race and climbed Mount Ben Nevis. I am also working at my father’s

building company and looking to study Construction Management and Quantity Surveying at university next

year and hopefully follow a career in the British army.

I had to pull out of joining the army which was really tough. Having cancer also tested my relationship with my

girlfriend but we worked through it and it made us stronger.

My health has picked back up and I feel incredibly fit again. I have been selected to represent Anthony Nolan in

the British Transplant Games, competing in a 5k run, archery and javelin.

If successful, I hope to represent the country at the World Transplant Games. I also aim to compete and medal

in the Canadian Taekwondo Open in 2016.

Stay fit, train hard and chase your dreams no matter what they are.






Germ cells are the cells in the body that develop into

sperm and eggs. They are mainly found in the ovaries in

women or testicles in men.

Doctors usually remove germ cell cancers with surgery

and this may be all the treatment that is needed. If there

is a chance of the cancer coming back, chemotherapy

may be needed after surgery. Germ cell tumours generally

respond very well to chemotherapy and most people

are cured. Even cancers that have spread are still very

treatable with chemotherapy.

Treatment for testicular cancer includes removal of the

affected testicle, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


How old were you at diagnosis? 20.

What were you doing?

What was your diagnosis?

How was it diagnosed?

How long did the diagnosis take?

What treatment did you have?

What are you doing now?

What impact has it had on

your life?

How do you view your

health now?

What advice would you give to

other young people?

Finishing my childcare and education course at college and recording my band’s debut album.

Testicular cancer.

I noticed something was wrong with my testicle as it had grown about 5 times the size of the other one and was

extremely tender. I also started having stomach pains and felt tired all the time, but due to the fear of what could

be wrong with me, it was a number of months before I decided to go to the doctors. I was referred by my GP to

a urology specialist where I had an ultrasound which showed I had a tumour on my right testicle.

It was a few months before I went to the doctors but when I did the diagnosis happened within two weeks.

I had immediate surgery to remove my right testicle, followed by 3 cycles of chemotherapy and further surgery

on 66 lymph nodes. The doctors said it was the most they’d ever heard of. I was treated on a Teenage Cancer

Trust unit where every single doctor, nurse, health care assistant, youth support coordinator, receptionist, were all

so caring and gave me and the other patients there so much support.

I have now finished treatment, and have been clear of cancer for 2 years. I ran the Brighton Marathon in

April for Teenage Cancer Trust, which was a very emotional and challenging experience for me. I also work in a

hospital and I’m going to be training to become a primary school teacher soon.

My social life, physical appearance, mental health and confidence were deeply affected by cancer. I couldn’t even

pop to the shops because of how bad I felt inside and out. I am also in a band but I was unfortunately unable to

play the drums during treatment as I was too ill and weak, which was really hard. However listening to my music

is what got me through - the heavier the music, the better I could cope. Beating cancer has made me stronger

willed and determined to help raise awareness of this awful illness. I think about how lucky I am every day.

I view my health as the most important thing in my life now. I was generally quite uninformed about cancer and

what devastation it could cause but I was still incredibly foolish by being so dismissive of my symptoms and

thinking that my college work was more important at the time. I shouldn’t have left it for so long and I am so

grateful to still be here and have so much more knowledge and awareness of how essential it is to take care of

your body and to not take any chances whatsoever.

I urge you all to go and see your GP if you have any worries or notice any unexplained changes in your body.

Don't be afraid to show any part of your body to a doctor. They see people naked on a daily basis so it honestly

won't bother them at all when they see you with your trousers round your ankles!




BENIGN usually refers to a tumor and means that

the cells are not spreading and that it is not malignant.

CANCER (NOUN) is a class of disease in which

a group of cells display uncontrolled growth through

division beyond normal limits. This invasion intrudes

upon and destroys nearby tissues and sometimes spreads

to other locations in the body via lymph or blood.

Adjective - cancerous.

In other words... cancer is when ‘abnormal’ cells are

formed in the body and harm normal cells. These

‘abnormal’ cells multiply quicker than normal cells and

spread. When ‘abnormal’ cells clump together, this is

called a tumour.

CHEMOTHERAPY is a course of anti-cancer drugs

which kill cancer cells, or stops them from multiplying.

There are over 50 different types of anti-cancer drugs,

which are given depending on the type of cancer. Usually

the course of chemotherapy is given in ‘cycles.’ A cycle

is a period of treatment followed by a rest. The rest from

treatment allows your body to recover from any sideeffects.

There are lots of side-effects from chemotherapy

and these can be very unpleasant and can include damage

to fertility. However, most of the side effects are shortterm

and will gradually disappear once the treatment

stops. Chemotherapy drugs attack all fast multiplying

cells in the body. This is why a common side effect of

chemotherapy is hair loss, because hair follicles contain

fast multiplying cells.

MALIGNANT usually refers to a tumour and means that

the tumor cells have a tendency to metastasize, or spread

to other parts of the body. If left untreated, this can be

life threatening.

METASTASIS is the spread of cancer cells from one

organ or tissue to another. Cancer cells usually spread

through the bloodstream or the lymph system.

RADIOTHERAPY is the use of high energy x-rays

and similar rays (such as electrons) to treat disease.

Radiotherapy destroys cancer cells in the area that’s

treated. Radiotherapy itself is painless, but it has a few

common side effects. These can vary, depending on which

part of your body is being treated. For example, if you

have an affected lymph node in your throat, radiotherapy

can lead to a sore throat. Other common side effects

include tiredness, nausea, skin reactions, vomiting, dry

mouth and loss of appetite.

REMISSION means that no cancer cells have been

found through examinations or tests. Doctors say

‘remission’ instead of cure because they cannot always be

sure that all cancer cells are gone or will not come back.

Generally, the longer the remission, the less likely it is that

the cancer will return. Five years in remission is often used

as a benchmark to signify being cured from cancer.

STEROIDS can be used to help destroy cancer cells and

make chemotherapy more effective. Steroids are naturally

produced in the body by the adrenal glands (small glands

above the kidneys) and help control many different

functions in our bodies such as the way we use fats,

proteins and carbohydrates. They regulate our immune

system and the balance of salt and water in our bodies.

They also help reduce inflammation. Side effects can

include an increase in appetite and changes in mood.

TERMINAL CANCER means that the cancer can’t

be cured and the patient dies from their disease.

TUMOUR is a swelling of a part of the body, usually

without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of

tissue which is either benign or cancerous.

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