Young Women and Breast Cancer

Young Women and Breast Cancer

Young Women and Breast Cancer

Most young women do not regard themselves to be vulnerable to breast cancer and records reveal that less than 7% of all breast cancers actually affect women who are less than 40 years of age. Nevertheless, it needs to be understood that age has nothing to do with this malignant disease and women must be aware of common risk factors that can cause the development of breast cancer at any stage in life. Some of these include:

  • Personal history of any breast disease – cancerous or non cancerous
  • Incident of breast cancer in the family – particularly in mother or sister
  • Radiation therapy on the chest region prior to the age of 40
  • Any evidence of particular genetic defect (BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation) – women with defects on any of these genes have higher risk of breast cancer development
  • A Gail Index score of at least 1.7% for the growth of breast cancer in 5 years or 20% risk for its development up to the age of 90 years
  • Other factors that raise the risk of breast cancer subsume heavy intake of alcohol and red meat. Obesity and ethnicity also affect chances of developing the disease – white women are at a greater risk of breast cancer as compared to black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific islanders.

It may not be possible to prevent breast cancer in women less than 40 years of age but early diagnosis and timely treatment can improve their chances of surviving the cancer. Over 90 percent of women in whom cancer is detected and treated at an early stage do survive.

Screening for Breast Cancer in Women below 40 years of Age

As per the American Cancer Society, all women between 20 and 40 years of age should perform self examination for breast cancer on a monthly basis. The most ideal time for this analysis is a day after end of monthly period. If a young woman is familiar with the normal look and feel of her breast, she will be able to notice any changes or new developments.

Besides the monthly self examination, yearly breast check-up performed by a breast cancer specialist is recommended for all women above the age of 20 years. Yearly screening with mammography may be required for women who are above 40 years of age and are at a risk of breast cancer. Mammography may not be required for younger women as breast tissue is less dense till the age of 40 and this makes mammograms less effectual as screening tools.

Treatment of Breast Cancer in Young women

Breast cancer once diagnosed through physical examination or medical tests needs to be treated before it becomes more malignant. The course of treatment, irrespective of the woman’s age depends on the stage and severity of the disease as also the woman’s personal health and past medical records. Treatment options therefore involve surgery which may be

  • Lumpectomy - removal of the tumor lump and some surrounding tissue.
  • Mastectomy - removal of breast

Surgical treatment is generally followed by therapies that prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. These include :

The treatment plan for any patient is prepared after considering her individual diagnosis results. Breast cancer specialists outline a plan that effectively works against development, growth and spread of breast cancer cells.

While treating cancer in young women, radiation therapy is generally recommended after a lumpectomy and breast removal surgery is followed by chemotherapy or/and hormone therapy to destroy any traces of cancer cells and prevent a relapse.

Younger women may face some problems associated with sexuality, fertility and pregnancy after a breast cancer treatment but a timely treatment is nevertheless recommended.

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Young Women and Breast Cancer