Cancer In Young Adults

7/11/2007 - Webcast

Guests Include:

Brandon Hayes-Lattin, M.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
Oregon Health & Science University

Todd Smaka, M.D.
Anesthesiology Resident
Oregon Health & Science University

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In this unique Patient Power program, two doctors – diagnosed with cancer in their prime - share how an untimely diagnosis inspired them to be better physicians. While cancer is not unheard of among young adults, researchers admit there is much room for improvement. The NCI points out the lack of progress in treatments for young adults with cancer in comparison to other age groups, with much of these barriers attributed to the high numbers of uninsured young adults and the need for participants in clinical trials. With the absence of these two critical elements, scientists are left with little room for research towards advances in treatment that have the potential to improve quality of life for young adults with cancer. Fortunately, organizations like the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program at Oregon Health and Science University, exist to coordinate care, research, education and advocacy for those diagnosed with cancer specifically, between the age of 15-40.

At the tender age of twenty-eight, and just eleven-months after finishing medical school, Dr. Brandon Hayes-Lattin, a hematologist oncologist at OHSU, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Despite his optimism, Dr. Hayes-Lattin became increasingly concerned with feeling isolated and the noticeable delay in diagnosis. Ironically, Dr. Todd Smaka, an anesthesiology resident at OHSU, also on the program, shares a similar story. As a recent medical school graduate, Dr. Smaka, had a lot to look forward to, including a wedding just months away. Late one evening, he noticed an abnormality with the size of his spleen. He immediately picked up an old pathology textbook, with several suspicions of cancer in mind. He was later diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia, an extremely rare type of cancer, so rare, only 500 cases are diagnosed each year. Hear both Dr. Hayes-Lattin and Dr. Smaka discuss the difficulties of being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, the importance of making connections with other young adults with cancer, and the benefits of clinical trials.

The two doctors also discuss the importance of creating a support group, the impact of family in a cancer diagnosis, and how organizations like the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Young Adult Alliance, are continuing to bring together a number of resources that are assisting young adults across the country. If you know a young adult dealing with a cancer diagnosis, this program is not only inspiring, but will encourage you or your loved one to make the right connections with others who share similar experiences.