Mind the Gap: Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (Part I)…


It was all coming too fast. Three weeks ago J had gone to her GP (General Practitioner) to complain about the swelling of her arm that had not subsided. She had recently graduated from Yale—at the top of her class—and was preparing to go to Harvard Law School. She was home for the summer living with her parents in New York. J had two younger brothers and a young sister in London. The only thing that mattered to her was her post-graduation trip to sunny California. It was when J had been packing and had gone to reach for her shirt on the top of the dresser that the chair she was standing on lost its grip and J fell a couple feet to the ground, landing on her arm. As she only had some swelling and slight pain, her GP simply recommended to ice it and she would be fine.

When as young adults we complain of a problem to a GP we are not always taken seriously, which can result in late diagnosis or misdiagnosis. In fact, there are many explanations for late diagnosis and according to Dr. Archie Bleyer, these include delaying to seek medical care and obtaining a correct diagnosis, lack of routine medical care, poor training or an unwillingness to care for young adults among GPs, under-recognition by medical professionals of certain diseases or its symptoms and signs in J’s age group, and lack of health insurance (US).

J’s persistence to meet with her GP and to tell him that her swelling and pain around her right arm was not a result of her fall saved her life. J actually had osteosarcoma, one of the most common bone cancers in adolescents and young adults. The treatment for it calls for a combination of chemotherapy followed up with a surgery to remove the tumour and follow up chemotherapy to improve any chances for removing the cancer cells. Generally, radiation is only used when surgery is impossible. If J had waited any longer, the chances of metastasis of the tumour would have increased, most likely going to her lungs. Although the causes are unknown, the symptoms of osteosarcoma include tenderness, swelling and pain when lifting. All these are common symptoms usually also experienced after a fall so it can be seen how J’s GP could have overlooked a serious bone cancer for just a slight irritation. Yet, are GPs doing everything they can? to be continued

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

One thought on “Mind the Gap: Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults (Part I)…

  1. Hey Ali. What a great story….So, I’m a friend of your aunt Anni’s from Rotary. She sent me your blog so I could get in touch with you for advice (I’m moving to DC for an internship)…but I cannot find your email address anywhere here! Great blog, though!

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