Fear is counterproductive to the health of TYA patients with cancer, and a good starting point to reducing fear is addressing misconceptions about a patient’s particular cancer, said Dr. Bleyer.

A study reported at the 2008 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium offered an example of misconceptions when it summarized that 26% of a study group of teenage girls feared developing breast cancer, despite their age.

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Over 3% believed that breast cancer—rarely diagnosed in adolescence and early adulthood—“was common in teen girls.”4

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“Sometimes it can be the most unsuspecting patient who needs the most emotional support,” said Lauren Villa, MPH, who is the interim director of Shanti’s Margot Murphy Breast Cancer Program in San Francisco, California, which provides emotional support and counseling via oncologist referral.

Both Villa and Dr. Bleyer agree that warning signs like adherence to therapy and simply not showing up to scheduled appointments should be signals to oncologists that their TYA patient may be facing issues other than the disease.

“My biggest piece of advice is to never judge a book by its cover—you may think someone has it all figured out but when it comes to cancer you can never have enough people by your side ,” Villa said.


  1. Beck M. ‘Too Young for Cancer’ and Demanding Action. The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703514904575602523936086974. Updated November 9, 2010. Accessed October 23, 2014.
  2. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/findcancerearly/cancerscreeningguidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer. Revised April 23, 2014. Accesed October 23, 2014.
  3. Dunwoodie E, Watkins V,  Lane M, et al. When and Why Do Teenage and Young Adult Oncology Patients Die Early in the Cancer Pathway? Ann Oncol. 2014;25(suppl 4): iv492.
  4. BreastCancer.org.  Teen Girls Fear Breast Cancer. http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20081230b. Published December 30, 2008. Accessed November 6, 2014.