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Live Pink for Life – Young Women and Breast Cancer 2017-07-28T05:56:00+00:00


A young woman survives breast cancer and becomes an advocate for breast self-examination.

  • The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age, however, young women under the age of 40 are also diagnosed with breast cancer.
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  • More than 250,000 women living today with breast cancer were diagnosed before the age of 40.
    [i]
  • More than 10,000 young women will be diagnosed within this next year.[ii]
  • By age 30, a woman has a 1 in 2,212 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. [iii]
  • From age 30 to 39, a woman has a 1 in 229 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. [iv]
  • Women 50 and older account for 77% of breast cancer diagnoses; however, women age 20 make up .06% of breast cancer cases, women age 30 make up .44% of breast cancer cases, and women age 40 make up 1.44% of breast cancer cases. [v]
  • During 2002-2006, women aged 20-24 had the lowest incidence rate, 1.4 cases per 100,000 women[vi]
  • Younger women (age 40 and under) with breast cancer have a lower 5 year survival rate at 83%, compared to 90% for women over age 40.[vii] ACS suggests this difference may be due to the tumors in younger women being more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.
  • There is a strong relationship between younger age at diagnosis of the primary breast cancer and risk of subsequent cancer. Women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer (age <40) have almost a 3-fold increased risk of any subsequent cancer, with a 4.5-fold increased risk of subsequent breast cancer.[viii]
  • Younger women’s diagnoses are generally delayed, which means that the disease has progressed beyond the likelihood of successful treatment by the time it is diagnosed.

Several factors contribute to the later diagnosis.

1. First, mammography is not required for women under 40 because it is difficult to identify tumors through younger women’s more dense breasts, allowing the cancer to metastasize throughout the breast and other regions of the body before being detected.[ix]

2. Another difficulty in diagnosing masses is that many of the breast changes are normative, non-cancerous masses in the breast, such as (a) fibroadenoma, which are single or multiple non-cancerous masses seen in women 20 – 40, or (b) galactocele, a milk cyst that is seen in women because it is related to childbirth.[x]

3. Some data indicate that younger women have had more aggressive tumor types, with the effects of the disease resulting in female hormonal problems in fertility, pregnancy, breast feeding, and the onset of early menopause.[xi]

4. Additionally, younger women may develop fibrocystic breast changes which are related to monthly menses.[xii]

  • Young women with a breast cancer diagnosis may feel isolated because many of their peers cannot relate to their concerns, in addition to, possible anxiety about how this will impact their medical, social, and economic future.[xiii]

YOUNG AGE AND ETHNICITY:

Young age and ethnicity have a complex relationship.

  • African American women ages 25 – 40 have a higher risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than their Caucasian counterparts.[xiv]
  • By the age of 30, 50% of African American women are overweight. Approximately 35% or more of all cancers are related to excess fats contributing to estrogen receptor negative tumors.[xv]
  • Most obesity in African American women began in their 20s because of fatty diets, which constitutes an additional risk factor for the onset of breast cancer.[xvi]
  • The excess weight of many African American women results in larger, denser breast sizes, creating additional obstacles in diagnosing breast cancer through mammography, CBEs, or BSE.[xvii]
[i] Young Survival Coalition (n.d.): Young women and breast cancer. Retrieved July 25, 2010 from http://www.youngsurvival.org/young-women-and-bc/.
[ii] Young Survival Coalition (n.d.): Young women and breast cancer. Retrieved July 25, 2010 from http://www.youngsurvival.org/young-women-and-bc/.
[iii] Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation (n.d.). Populations of Interest/Younger Women. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.dslrf.org/breastcancer/content.asp?L2=6&L3=2&SID=215.
[iv] Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation (n.d.). Populations of Interest/Younger Women. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.dslrf.org/breastcancer/content.asp?L2=6&L3=2&SID=215.
[v] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.
[vi] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.
[vii] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.
[viii] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2009-2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.
[ix] Breast Cancer Fund (n.d.). Breast cancer facts 2003. Retrieved January 18, 2004, from http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=43969; and
[x] Breast Cancer Fund (n.d.). Breast cancer facts 2003. Retrieved January 18, 2004, from http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=43969
Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.
[xi]Sisters Network, Inc. (n.d.). Cancer facts and education. Retrieved February 3, 2004 from http://www.sisternetworkinc.org/education.htm
[xii] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.
[xiii] Young Survival Coalition (n.d.): Young women and breast cancer. Retrieved July 25, 2010 from http://www.youngsurvival.org/young-women-and-bc/.
[xiv]Breast Cancer Fund (n.d.). Breast cancer facts 2003. Retrieved January 18, 2004, from http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=43969.
[xv] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.
[xvi] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.
[xvii] Long, E., (1993). Breast cancer in African American women: Review of the literature. Cancer Nursing, 16, 1- 24.