AYA Cancers - AYA@USC The Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program at USC
University of Southern California
USC Norris Cancer Center


The most common types of cancer seen in adolescents and young adults are lymphoma, leukemia, germ cell tumors (including testicular cancer), melanoma, central nervous system tumors, sarcomas, breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, thyroid cancer, and colorectal cancer.



Below please view brief descriptions of the most common types of cancers, helpful links to more information, and specific support sites.

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The growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Brain tumors are not a single kind of tumor, but include several different tumor types.

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Colon cancer: Cancer that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine). Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Rectal cancer: Cancer that forms in the tissues of the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine closest to the anus).

The term "germ cell" refers to-giving of life, as in "germinate" (not from "germs" as in bacteria). Germ cells got their name because they normally produce the specialized cells that give rise to new life: sperm and egg cells – those needed for human reproduction.

Extracranial germ cell tumor (childhood): A rare cancer that forms in germ cells in the testicle or ovary, or in germ cells that have traveled to areas of the body other than the brain (such as the chest, abdomen, or tailbone). Germ cells are reproductive cells that develop into sperm in males and eggs in females. Extragonadal germ cell tumor: A rare cancer that develops in germ cells that are found in areas of the body other than the ovary or testicle (such as the brain, chest, abdomen, or tailbone). Germ cells are reproductive cells that develop into sperm in males and eggs in females. Testicular cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of one or both testicles. Testicular cancer is most common in young or middle-aged men. Most testicular cancers begin in germ cells (cells that make sperm) and are called testicular germ cell tumors.

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. Leukemia cells are sick immune blood cells that do not work properly and crowd out healthy blood cells. Leukemias are the most common childhood cancers. Types of leukemia include acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a "liquid" tumor or cancer of the blood that starts in the bone marrow and spreads to the bloodstream (the term leukemia comes from Greek words for white and blood). ALL is the most common children’s cancer, accounting for 35% of all cancers in children. There are about 2,900 new cases of ALL diagnosed in children and adolescents (0-21 years old) in the United States each year. Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood that starts in the bone marrow and spreads to the bloodstream. It is more common in adults, but each year approximately 500 new cases of AML are diagnosed in children in the United States.

Primary liver cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the liver. Secondary liver cancer is cancer that spreads to the liver from another part of the body.

Hodgkin lymphoma: Hodgkin disease is a cancer of the lymphoid system. The lymphoid system is made up of various tissues and organs, including the lymph nodes, tonsils, bone marrow, spleen, and thymus. These organs produce, store and carry white blood cells to fight infection and disease. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a general term for cancers of the lymphoid system (also known as lymph or lymphatic system). The lymphoid system is part of the immune system that protects the body from infections. Cells called B and T lymphocytes can be found in lymph glands (nodes), the spleen, the tonsils, adenoids and many other organs and tissues, including the intestinal tract. It is these B and T lymphocyte cells in lymph glands and organs that are abnormal or malignant in NHL.

A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

Cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells).

Bone cancer: Primary bone cancer is cancer that forms in cells of the bone. Some types of primary bone cancer are osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, and chondrosarcoma. Secondary bone cancer is cancer that spreads to the bone from another part of the body (such as the prostate, breast, or lung). Ewing sarcoma: Ewing sarcoma is the second most common tumor of the bone. It most often affects bones of the pelvis, the tibia, fibula, and femur, and can also begin in the soft tissues. This disease most often occurs in adolescents, with nearly half of cases arising between the ages of 10 and 20. Rhabdomyosarcoma: Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS or ‘rhabdo’) is a tumor made up of cancerous cells that look like immature muscle cells. In the United States, about 350 new cases are diagnosed each year in children under 15. Almost two-thirds of children’s rhabdo cases develop in children under 10. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/childrhabdomyosarcoma Soft tissue sarcoma: A cancer that begins in the muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue of the body. Uterine sarcoma: A rare type of uterine cancer that forms in muscle or other tissues of the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a fetus develops). It usually occurs after menopause. The two main types are leiomyosarcoma (cancer that begins in smooth muscle cells) and endometrial stromal sarcoma (cancer that begins in connective tissue cells).

Cancer that forms in the thyroid gland (an organ at the base of the throat that makes hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight). Four main types of thyroid cancer are papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. The four types are based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope.