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The Lingering Ghosts of Teenage Cancer

By: Kristine Alarcon

Edited by: Juliana Zhu, Esq.

Life as a teenager is often hard in its own way. Some may have difficulties finding themselves or establishing their identities, while others are trying to find their one true love. They worry about these issues while trying to maintain their studies and social life. There are some teenagers who must battle the monstrous ailment called cancer, making their adolescent life even more difficult. The monster could even haunt them after they defeat the disease.

With her colleagues, Dr. Pinki Prasad analyzed data from nearly 2,589 survivors who experienced the disease between the ages of 11 and 21. The survivors were also compared with the survivors’ siblings. Both groups were asked about their living situation, education level, and employment status, as well as their cognitive function and emotional states.

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The study found that people who experienced cancer in their teenage years were less likely to live independently, get married, work full-time, and have college degrees in their later part of life. In comparison to their siblings who were not diagnosed with cancer, this population also experienced difficulties with task efficiency and memory in addition to higher rates of anxiety and depression.

Dr. Prasad believes that cancer diagnosis could possibly interrupt the growing process in the transition to adulthood. The treatment could also play a role in disrupting their development. Treatment for teenage cancers are often more aggressive since the teenage cancer and tumors associated with them are different than adult cancers. A teenage patient may also receive their treatment during an important time in their lives when they should be developing autonomy from parents, engaging in social activities, and developing relationships, which can develop a negative effect on their social skills.

As the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports, the survivors’ neurocognitive complications play a role in their social outcomes. For the survivors who experienced task efficiency issues, they were three times less likely to be unemployed. About 50 percent of the cancer survivors studied were more likely to have cancer than their siblings and twice as likely to have anxiety.

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Hopefully with the new changes in cancer therapy, there will be fewer detrimental effects for teenage cancer survivors. Dr. Prasad notes that it is essential to continue to learn more about the teenage population of cancer patients so that they do not have to live with the ghosts of their cancer.


Kristine Alarcon graduated at the University of San Francisco with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is working towards certification in Sterile Processing and Distribution. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.



Kennedy, Madeline. “Survivors of teenage cancer struggle with jobs, emotions later in life.” Newsweek. Retrieved on July 30, 2015.

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