Young and healthy? Good. Are you not at risk of developing breast cancer? No. Breast cancer occurs in young and old women. Know your body so that you can know when something goes wrong. You are your best own advocate when it comes to health. Of course you need expert medical opinion, support, and help. Yet, fight for whatever you feel is abnormal in your body because you know your body best, even if a doctor tells you: "No worries; you're young."
Read this post by a young woman who was failed by her health practitioner who said it is nothing to worry about: "Mammograms are only 75% effective. I'd had 3 mammograms, an ultrasound scan and only after a biopsy was cancer diagnosed, that was 5 years after my gp had told me it was nothing to be concerned about. result grade 2 invasive carsinoma! Some incompetent gp's as in my case fail patients, if you are worried get a second opinion and save your life, If I had the money I'd sue" (2).
According to the CBCF, "Breast cancer incidence increases with age and is primarily a disease of postmenopausal women. However, about 1500 cases (7%) of breast cancer are diagnosed each year, in
Canada, in young women aged 40 years or less."
Moreover there are many challenges associated with breast cancer in young women:
"Breast cancer in this age group tends to be more advanced at the time of diagnosis and more aggressive and resistant to treatment. Prognosis is therefore generally worse for the under 40 group than for older women. Added to this are the many unique challenges associated with a diagnosis of breast cancer during the child-bearing years such as pregnancy associated breast cancer; loss of fertility; early career disruptions; care of young children amid the complex reactions of family, friends and partners; and the shock of facing an unexpected cancer diagnosis at such a young age" (1).
Young women are at the disadvantage of having some medical practitioners dismiss their worries of a lump or a change in their breast as insignificant due to their young age and healthy body. If you had had such an experience, you might need to seek a second opinion to be on the safe side. If given proper screening and diagnosis earlier, some of the young lives who suffered advanced stages of breast cancer could have been saved.
So, even in young women early detection is key: "Although breast cancer may not be prevented, early detection and prompt treatment can significantly improve a woman's chances of surviving breast cancer. More than 90% of women whose breast cancer is found in an early stage will survive" (3).
In the US for example, The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends "all women 20 years of age or older should perform monthly breast self-examinations . The best time to perform BSE is the day after your monthly period ends. Becoming familiar with the look and feel of their breasts offers the best chance for a young woman to notice and change. In addition to monthly BSE, annual clinical breast exams performed by your doctor are recommended for all women beginning at age 20. Annual screening mammograms also are recommended at age 40. Women younger than 40 who have a family history or other risk factors for breast cancer should discuss their risk and an appropriate screening schedule with their health care providers" (3).
If you are under the age of 40, it might be well worth the time and effort to discuss your family history, risk factors, and any concerns you have about your breast health. Don't wait till it's too late.
1- CBCF Workshop Brochure: http://www.cbcf.org/central/YourDollarAtWork/Grants/Documents/2012-02-14-CBCF-CIHR-YoungWomen.pdf
2- Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1281130/Breast-cancer-killing-young-women-They-MUST-screened-too.html
3- Medicine Net: http://www.medicinenet.com/breast_cancer_in_young_women/page2.htm
4- http://www.medicalyx.com/tag/breast-cancer-in-young-women/ Through minisites.contentthatworks.com