Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects depend mainly on the type and extent of the treatment. While many effects may be the same, there are some unique challenges those diagnosed and going through treatment under age 50 may encounter, including:

  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Impact on young children
  • Dating issues
  • Infertility issues
  • Intimacy issues
  • Career/workplace issues
  • Financial issues
  • Psychological issues

What Questions Do I Need to Ask?

If you’ve been diagnosed under age 50, there are a number of important questions and considerations you should discuss with your doctor or a nurse navigator.

How will the side effects impact my ability to care for my family?

  • How do I talk to my children about my diagnosis?
  • How should I speak to my children about my treatment and side effects so that they understand what’s happening to me and how things will be different?
  • What does a “new normal” for my family look like?

Will the side effects impact my ability to have children in the future?

  • How will treatment impact my fertility?
  • Should I consider sperm/egg storage?
  • What are my options for egg/sperm donation, surrogacy or adoption?
  • If my ovaries are removed, what can be done to minimize the effects of instant menopause?

Will the side effects impact my ability to perform my job?

  • How do I discuss this with my supervisor/boss/co-workers? What am I required/not required to disclose?
  • How will this affect my health insurance?
  • Am I eligible for FMLA?
  • Am I eligible for short-term disability insurance?
  • Am I eligible for long-term disability insurance?

Advice from Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura Porter

Taken all at once, this can be very overwhelming. But realize that great strides have been made in treatment and side effect management in the last 10 years. In 2003, when I was diagnosed at the age of 43, there were only four drugs available. Now there are nine and several in the pipeline.

Talk to your medical team as your side effects arise – it can make them much more manageable.

Don’t let routine health checks and regular screenings for other cancers fall by the wayside – they’re still important.

And maybe most importantly, give yourself time. We all live with the fear of recurrence, but it is important not to let it consume your life. We are alive so we need to keep living one day at a time.

Dr. Laura PorterColon Cancer Alliance Medical Adviser
Young & Brave at Age 43