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Breast Cancer in Young Women

Breast cancer isn't age specific. Here's how to cope with treatments and augmentations if you are diagnosed earlier in life.

Florida women are getting diagnsed sooner and in more treatable stages than ever before, according to the state Health Department.

"The percentage of female breast cancer cases diagnosed at an early... stage in Florida has increased 25% in the past 20 years," according to health officials.

"Reported screening rates were higher among Floridians but are now similar to screening rates reported nationally."

An American woman in her 30s has a one in 232 chance of getting the disease, and a woman 20 years her senior has a one in 42 probability, according to komen.org

“Although we aren’t certain, the cause of breast cancer in younger women is likely caused by a genetic predisposition,” says Ann H. Partridge, M.D., M.P.H., the medical oncologist director of the Adult Survivorship Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

While breast cancer treatment in young women is often effective, the chance of recovery tends to be worse in women under 40. Breast tissue is often denser in younger women, making cancer harder to detect initially.

This is why many younger women are diagnosed at later stages with more aggressive tumors. These factors all contribute to an increased need for stronger treatments, says Partridge.

Unfortunately, some of these therapies have side effects that hit younger women in different and sometimes more difficult ways than their older counterparts.

At the time of diagnosis, many young women are in the midst of building careers, getting married and starting families. A major concern for young women with breast cancer is loss of fertility. Both chemo and hormone therapies can damage the ovaries, causing irregular periods or a menopausal transition. 

Screening Is Essential

Low-cost and free screenings are available, including a mammogram voucher. Please see the PDF file attached to this article.

Most hospitals offer diagnostic sceenings. You can find them at St. Anthony's Breast Center, St. Petersburg General Hospital, Diagnostic Outpatient Center and Bayfront Medical Center.

After treatment many women choose breast reconstruction.

More than 307,000 breast implant augmentation surgeries were performed in 2011. This is just an example of women looking to their breasts for a confidence boost—and young women facing breast cancer are no exception.

The under-40 demographic tends to have greater emotional distress over how cancer treatments will affect their appearance than their older counterparts.

King had just gotten engaged a few months prior to her diagnosis, and was “a bit upset by the thought of a mastectomy.”  

“My mother was not at all concerned with how it would impact her life, nor was she in a rush to have reconstruction surgery," says King, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50. “But, as I always tell other women, nothing is ever as important as your health. You can walk around happily with your implants or you can lay in your grave with your 'real' ones.  The choice is yours.”

TELL US: Do you know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age? If so, what was the cause? Tell us in the comments below. 

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