The Secret Handbook 4 Teens

Teens + Cancer: Why “Knowing Yourself” Means Taking Care of Your Body as Well as Your Mind

summer girl 2


Scary word right? Might make you think about a family member or someone you know who survived cancer or who maybe even died from cancer.

Let’s dig a little deeper. How about this combination of words?

Cancer + Teenagers

Got your attention?

Let’s get even a little more specific:

Cancer + YOU

How does that make you feel? Nervous? Scared? Uncomfortable? Falsely courageous like “Oh that could never happen to me. I’m young and healthy and everyone knows teenagers don’t get cancer!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that teenagers do get cancer and an important part to knowing and loving yourself is to really know your body.  That means not sticking your head in the sand and ignoring a problem or brushing it off as nothing especially if deep down it seems like more than nothing.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer this summer but in my little mini-series about steps to loving yourself I’ve talked a lot about taking care of your body. Part of taking care of your body is being aware of your body and what it’s telling you. There are a lot of great resources out there for teens but below I’m sharing some of the warning signs from Teenage Cancer Trust . Check out the signs and check out their website. It’s chock full of incredibly useful info.


Warning Signs (from Teenage Cancer Trust):

  • An unexplained lump, bump or swelling that remains for a period of weeks. These can appear anywhere on or in your body.
  • Pain that doesn’t go away with painkillers. The pain can be experienced anywhere in or on your body. Remember that to be of concern the pain should be persistent and unexplained.
  • Significant weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness. Another way of saying this is ‘chronic fatigue.’ This doesn’t mean struggling to get out of bed on a school/work day, it means absolute exhaustion that doesn’t go away.
  • Changes in a mole. The key changes to be aware of are itching, bleeding, change in shape, colour, asymmetry and blurred or jagged edges.

Other signs that are less common in young people but may be found in people experiencing cancer of any age group are:

  • Abnormal bleeding; particularly from the vagina or back passage but also in urine or when vomiting
  • A persistent cough or hoarseness
  • Changes to skin other than difference in a mole; this can be cuts that wont heal, the appearance of ulcers or sores that don’t go away, itchiness or bleeding
  • A change in bowel habit that is persistent or unexplained

The most important thing that you can do is know your body. Any persistent or unexplained signs should be described to a doctor. If it helps, write down your signs before you go. If symptoms don’t go away after treatment by your doctor, go back to the doctor’s office and explain what you are experiencing again. You are never wasting your doctor’s time.


Please be smart and take care of yourself. Summer is a great time to focus on you! If you have a concern get it checked out sooner rather than later.

Oh for the love of God PLEASE use sunscreen people! Wrinkles, sunspots and cancer are NOT sexy. Trust me on this.

Thanks for listening. I know you’re smart and I know you get this. Just consider this a gentle reminder that loving yourself means taking care of your mind, BODY and spirit!

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