Breast cancer is traditionally diagnosed in women over the age of 55. However, it can affect women under the age of 40 years old. Fewer than 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States occur in women under the age of 40. Being diagnosed can be very difficult and shocking for these women.
In women under 40, breast cancer tends to be fast growing, higher grade, and hormone receptor-negative. All of these mean that the cancer is more aggressive and would require specialized treatment. Treatment options may be impacted by your age and your menopause status.
With young women, experts suggest that there may be an increased risk from BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations. The impact of these gene mutations are still be studied to understand what causes early-onset breast cancer. Additionally, scientists are working hard to investigate the underlying genetic factors that may contribute to risk and medical issues a younger woman faces as a result of breast cancer. Today, over $16 million is spent to understand early onset breast cancer.
There are many unique challenges and problems that these women may face. Chemotherapy may impact fertility by damaging the ovaries or by altering your menstrual cycles. Young women with breast cancer may also need to consider clinical trials for fertility preservation if traditional methods do not work.
Most importantly, young women experiencing breast cancer may need additional forms of support through support groups. Social support may be especially important for their loved ones, partners, and children.
Sources: Susan G. Komen – Young Women and Breast Cancer
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