Cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in the adolescent age group, preceded only by accidents, homicide, and suicide. Table 1 lists by age, sex, and race cancer incidence rates (per million) for a three-year period (1969-1971) reported by the National Cancer Institute. Table 2 lists the most commonly involved sites. There are significant differences between the younger and the older age groups. With the advent of improved treatment, survival rates have increased. Table 3 lists the survival rates for the most common forms of cancer and includes all children under 15 years of age. Although survival rates are increasing, the majority of children with cancer still die. Table 4 lists cancer mortality rates for adolescents.
The issues involved in diagnosis, treatment, survival, and death present problems for all of those who care for the adolescent with cancer—the patient himself or herself, family and friends, the physician, and other health care professionals. The objectives of this article are: to increase awareness of the types of problems commonly encountered in caring for adolescents with cancer and to describe some of the ways of dealing with these problems. The problems are by no means clear-cut, and the suggested methods of dealing with them must be individualized to meet the needs of all involved.