National effort underway targeting people 15 to 40 years old of subtle signs of cancer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – There’s a segment of the population not likely to pay attention to health changes that could be life saving.

People like Ashley Emerson-Gilbert.

She was a senior in high school who had little time to notice what was going on at the time.

“The headaches and the jaw pain and the fatigue turned into really extreme pain,” said Ashley.

After weeks of brushing off what didn’t seem all too important, she finally did seek help.

“I wanted to figure out what was going on,” Ashley says, “but I really didn’t think think it was really anything.”

The diagnosis, a childhood cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Now, the cancer survivor works with ’15-40 Connection’ a non-profit group determined to empower that age group more likely to ignore health changes.

They focus on three steps to help detect cancer earlier.

Step one, know what is normal for you- paying attention to things like a shift in sleep patterns, weight and energy levels.

“I wish I had advocated for myself and realized the changes were happening and that they were dramatic,” said Ashley.

“You meet people who allow symptoms that are real to go neglected and often then present with advance disease and it’s tragic to see that when it doesn’t have to happen,” says Cancer Specialist Dr. Peter Deckers at UConn Health, who supports the mission of 15-40.

Also key he says, step two.

The 2-week rule.

Call a doctor if symptoms linger.

“Any of those changes that persist two to three weeks, they need to pay attention to that because that’s not normal,” said Dr. Deckers.

The third step, share all the information with your doctor.

“Understand that if you report these changes early, we can do something about it,” said Dr. Deckers.

“For me, I didn’t know what to share. I didn’t know how to articulate what I was feeling and what was going on,” said Ashley.

For more information, click here.

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