Though most cancer cases are diagnosed in adults over the age of 40, there’s been an increase in cancer rates in adolescents and young adults (ages 15 to 39), according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). An estimated 86,000 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) in the United States were diagnosed with cancer in 2023, the NCI reports, making up about 4 percent of all cancer cases in the country.
Some organizations have made it their mission to help AYAs with all types of cancer get through their diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. The following groups offer financial aid and research opportunities, while also aiming to foster meaningful connections through virtual and in-person support groups, one-on-one peer connections, and even adventurous excursions.
Read on to discover eight of the best organizations that support young people with cancer.
Cactus Cancer Society
Cactus Cancer Society provides an array of programs and events to suit young survivors and caregivers with different interests. From a book club and Lego-building, to art and journaling workshops, they strive to banish isolation in young people with cancer. Through their Awkward Auntie initiative, AYAs with cancer can ask any question they have about relationships and sex that they may feel hesitant to ask a provider in person.
Cactus Cancer Society hosts an annual YA Cancer Gabfest, a weeklong series of discussions and interactive crash courses on facing cancer as a young person. They also offer information on research opportunities focused specifically on young adult cancer survivors.
Elephants and Tea
Elephants and Tea is a magazine curated by and for young adults with cancer. It publishes patient stories and offers guidance on living with cancer in this stage of life. Their impact doesn’t end with their inspiring articles, though. Elephants and Tea also hosts virtual community events, like a weekly happy hour and their Perkatory series, which gives the magazine’s writers a platform to share their stories in the hope that participants will feel less alone in their cancer experience.
The organization offers art workshops, guided yoga, and other wellness programs, as well as support groups for young people with cancer and their loved ones. Elephants and Tea makes an effort to address difficult topics, like substance abuse and loneliness , and wants all AYAs with cancer to know that they are not alone. You can subscribe for free to receive their quarterly magazine or weekly newsletter, and register for events on their website.
Expect Miracles Foundation’s SAMFund
A cancer diagnosis and its ensuing treatments can get expensive, and money should be the last thing you have to worry about when you’re living with this disease. Expect Miracles Foundation’s SAMFund exists to ease that heavy financial burden.
After surviving cancer twice, Samantha Watson realized that other young adults with cancer needed a solution to their financial issues, and started SAMFund. Twice a year, SAMFund offers two grants: Their financial assistance grant helps young survivors take care of basic living expenses, including rent and pursuing higher education, while their family-building grant was created for those who are ready to start a family and are thinking of having children. The grant covers fertility preservation, testing, adoption, and more.
When you go on an outing with First Descents, you’re in for an adventure. This organization provides young adults with cancer or multiple sclerosis, caregivers, and healthcare workers the opportunity to participate in free outdoor excursions, with a goal to improve long-term survivorship through adventure and community.
First Descent’s core programs offer weeklong activities like kayaking, rock climbing, and surfing. They even provide participants with nutritious meals during excursions, made with an emphasis on whole foods and plant-based options, and curated for those living with cancer or MS.
Stupid Cancer aims to end isolation in the young adult cancer community by bringing people together through a common goal: navigating life with cancer. Stupid Cancer’s virtual discussion series digs into different areas of life that can be affected by cancer, from dating and relationships to mental health. The organization also offers both in-person and digital meetups, as well as an extensive library of resources.
At their annual conference, CancerCon, hundreds of young survivors gather to participate in inspiring lectures, illuminating breakout sessions, and fun-filled activities, designed to bring hope and valuable connection to young people living with cancer. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay in the loop on upcoming events.
True North Treks
True North Treks is all about connection — with nature, your peers, and yourself. They meet this goal by offering free backpacking and canoeing treks in the wilderness for young survivors and their caregivers. These trips are designed to help you connect with others and learn mindfulness practices for vital self-care.
For those who would rather steer clear of the wild, True North Treks also offers residential retreats in Utah and Wyoming, and online mindfulness classes, with each month focusing on a different intention, such as acceptance, gratitude, and patience.
Young Adult Survivors United (YASU)
Young Adult Survivors United (YASU) was founded by Stephanie Samolovitch , who was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 and experienced firsthand the lack of resources specifically catered to young adults with cancer. After getting her master’s degree in social work, she founded YASU with the goal to enhance the quality of life for AYAs with cancer, as well as their partners and caregivers.
YASU hosts several events throughout the year in the Pittsburgh area. Their annual Wig Out event brings together young people who have been diagnosed with cancer, and those who haven’t, for an evening of community and fundraising. Members can also participate in their Young Adult Cancer Camp and the YASU Golf Outing . The organization offers in-person and virtual support groups — like their LGBTQ+ Cancer Chats and Self-Love Workshops — as well as monthly social outings, financial assistance grants, and free respite trips through their Rae of Hope program.
Young Survival Coalition (YSC)
Young Survival Coalition (YSC) was founded by a group of young women who had each been diagnosed with breast cancer, and all agreed that young people were underrepresented in research, support, and cancer community opportunities. In an effort to close that gap, YSC offers young adults with breast cancer all over the world several programs, such as their peer matchmaking, which allows you to talk one-on-one with another young adult living with cancer; and virtual hangouts designed for different communities. They have groups for those who have received a metastatic diagnosis, who identify as LGBTQIA+, and more. If you prefer an in-person meeting, YSC’s Face 2 Face (F2F) networks are sprinkled all over the United States.
Their annual YSC Summit gives young survivors the opportunity to surround themselves with support, education, and connection over the course of three days. On top of all their events, this organization also offers educational resources if you’d like to learn more about your diagnosis and treatment.