15-40 Connection teaches students about young adult cancer risks


Brianna Gipson, social work major, was interviewed by Justin Ozuna about young adults diagnosed with cancer.

TCU’s 15-40 Connection and Fort Worth Adolescent Young Adult Oncology Coalition (FWAYA) tested students’ knowledge about cancer in young adults.

The 15-40 Connection is a student-run organization raising cancer awareness on campus and encourages students to check themselves for signs of cancer.

Lisa Bashore, a 15-40 adviser, said FWAYA partnered with the Harris College to help spread this message.

Students were asked questions about the benefits of early cancer detection.

Some students said they were surprised to hear that over 90 percent of patients who received treatment early on beat their cancer. For tumors detected late, however, survival rates drop as low as 12 percent.

Bashore said lower survival rates is a problem for young adults throughout the U.S.

Young adults between ages 15 and 40 have had little improvement in survival relative to children and elderly patients diagnosed with the same disease throughout the last 30 years, she said.

The green block highlights the low survival rates of cancer patients between ages 15 and 40.
The green block highlights the low survival rates of cancer patients between ages 15 and 40.

She said the plateau remains partially because young adults are sometimes diagnosed too late.

“Young people don’t think of themselves as part of the cancer demographic and don’t check themselves for signs of a tumor often enough,” she said.

According to the 15-40 website, early detection is an advantage that could save lives. The site lists three steps to recognizing cancer early are a big part of 15-40’s message to young adults:

  1. Understand what normal feels like (energy levels, sleeping patterns, weight) so health changes are noticeable.
  2. The “2-week rule.” If any bodily changes last more than two weeks, a doctor should be notified to figure out what’s wrong.
  3. Feel comfortable talking to doctors about their health and advocating for themselves.

Bashore said young adults need to be in tune with their health since even physicians can mistake cancer symptoms for other health problems. Cases like this allow the cancerous cells to grow and become harder to stop.

“Cancer can happen to you,” she said.

Briana Gipson, a social work major, said she didn’t realize how prevalent the disease was among people her age.

Bashore said one of her goals was to “empower” students to take control of their health and recognize the reality that so many young adults ignore.

The 15-40 Connection is planning to keep promoting this message on TCU’s campus and broadcast the recorded interviews as a part of National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week April 4-8.