Breast Cancer in Young Women
If you think that breast cancer in young women is not possible,you are wrong. Breast cancer in young women is less detectable with diagnosing and screening. Also, it tends to be more aggressive. Read on to know more about breast cancer in young women.
Even though it is true that invasive breast cancer incidence rates in young women, who are under 50, is stable since 1986 and that the death and incidence rates usually increase with age, here is a shocking revelation! As per the American Cancer Society Surveillance Research, the contained (in situ) breast cancer incidence rates have been on a rise since 1999 among younger women.
Most young women usually don’t think themselves to be at risk for breast cancer as they tend to think that they are too young . Only seven percent of all breast cancer cases strike women who are under 40. But, breast cancer can actually occur at any stage, and all women must be aware of their personal risks for developing breast cancer.
Factors that can Cause Breast Cancer in Young Women
There are numerous factors which can put you at a high risk for manifesting breast cancer. These include:
- Personal history of any non-cancerous breast ailments or breast cancer.
- Family history of breast cancer, most importantly in a sister, daughter or mother.
- Any radiation therapy history on the chest before age 40.
- Proof of a particular genetic defect such as BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation. Those who do carry any defects in one of these genes are more susceptible to develop breast cancer.
- Gail Index score of a minimum 1.7%. (This index uses numerous risk factors like number of breast biopsies, age of first pregnancy and first menstrual period, breast cancer family history and age to calculate risk of manifesting breast cancer within the coming 5 years.)
- Several other risk factors involve race, obesity, dense breasts, excessive consumption of red meat and heavy alcohol intake.
A few studies have indicated that recent use of any oral contraceptives can lead to a risk of manifesting breast cancer when compared with women who never took them. Those who stopped using any contraceptive pills for more than ten year do not have any imminent threat.However, other studies have not highlighted any such effect. Scientists continue to observe the conflicting results in trials in order to determine whether oral contraceptives do play any role in the development of breast cancer.
Young Women and Breast Cancer – What’s so Different?
- Diagnosing this cancer in women who are under 40 is a tough job as their breast tissue tends to be denser when compared with the breast tissue of older women. By the time a young woman can actually feel a lump in her breast, the cancer most often reaches an advanced stage.
- Additionally, the cancer can be more aggressive in young women and less likely to be aptly treated. Those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age are more susceptible to have an altered (mutated) BRCA1/BRCA2 gene.
- Any delays in detecting breast cancer can also be a problem. Most young women who have been diagnosed with this cancer tend to ignore the initial, warning signs – like unusual discharge or a breast lump – as they believe that they can’t have cancer at such a young age.
- Most women tend to think that they are way too young to develop breast cancer and think that a lump is simply a harmless growth or cyst.
- A few health care providers or doctors even dismiss such lumps in the breast as simple cysts. They advise these young women to follow a “wait and see” approach.
Is it possible to prevent breast cancer in young females?
- Even though this cancer can’t be prevented or stopped, early diagnosis and immediate treatment can definitely improve chances of survival. Around 90% of women who are diagnosed with this cancer at an early stage will survive. Following instructions and recommendations about mammograms and clinical exams increases the likelihood that breast cancer can be detected earlier.
- Women should understand their own risk factors and discuss breast health with their doctor or health care provider.
Should I get a mammogram done if I am under age 40?
Generally regular mammograms are not considered for women who are younger than age 40 as their breast tissue seems to be denser, which makes mammograms a lesr effective screening tool.
Additionally, many experts tend to believe that a low risk factor of developing this cancer at a very young age really does not justify the mammography cost or the radiation exposure. But, screening mammograms can be recommended for women who have a family history or any other associated risks.
Young Women – Screening for Breast Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), self-examinations of the breasts are optional for women who are in their 20s. Physicians must discuss both the limitations and benefits of such exams with their concerned patients.
Regular clinical breast exams must be performed by your physician at least every 3 years if you are about to turn 20. Also, the ACS recommends regular annual screening mammograms beginning from the age of 40.
How is breast cancer treated in younger women?
The treatment mode at any age depends on the patient’s general health as well as the extent of the cancer. The treatment options include various surgeries:
- Mastectomy – Removal of the affected breast.
- Lumpectomy – Removal of the breast lump and some tissue surrounding the affected area.
Radiation therapy is usually implemented after a lumpectomy. Also, hormone therapy or chemotherapy is most often recommended post-surgery in order to destroy any cancerous cells and prevent recurrence.
Breast cancer also poses various other difficulties and challenges for younger women, for example, pregnancy, fertility and sexuality post treatment. Hence, it is important to be aware of breast cancer in young women and take immediate action to curtail the disease at an early stage itself.