Most breast cancer is found in women who are over 50 years old, but lately it is becoming more common for younger women to be diagnosed with the disease. As a matter of fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women who are younger than 45 years of age.
Young women who have been diagnosed are often confused and angry. Here are some stories from younger women (their last names have been withheld to protect their anonymity).
Jamie always felt like she had a higher risk of breast cancer, but never thought she’d be diagnosed at 38. “I thought if I ever got cancer it would be much later in life – when I was in my 60s or 70s,” she says.
Sarah was diagnosed two weeks shy of her 37th birthday. An otherwise healthy young woman, she was angry when the doctor told her she had breast cancer at such a young age.
Anna was diagnosed when she was only 34-years-old and, as a young mom to a 17-month-old daughter, she felt like her future family plans were quickly fading away.
Kristen has a three-year-old daughter, but her breast cancer diagnosis and chemo treatment wiped away her dreams of having another child. “This is the time when all my friends who had babies at the same time as me are having their second child,” she says.
According to the CDC, younger women are at a higher risk for breast cancer if they have close relatives who have also been diagnosed at a younger age, if they have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, are of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage or have been treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest in childhood or early adulthood. If they are diagnosed, the breast cancer is often found to be at a later stage and more aggressive.
Once diagnosed, younger women must make a variety of decisions concerning their treatment and their future. That includes decisions to have a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, as well as deciding about childbirth. That is because some breast cancer chemo treatments might damage the ovaries, which can sometimes cause immediate or delayed infertility.
Dana says the hardest part of being a young breast cancer patient was going into the chemo room where the average age of the patients was about 60. “They look at me with such pity and said, ‘At least I’ve had a long life, saw my kids and grandkids grow up,’” she says. “But I will survive and will also see my kids grow up.”
The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction believes in good health for everyone, regardless of their age. If you or someone you know is in need of breast reconstruction, contact them at NaturalBreastReconstruction.com or toll-free at (866) 374-2627.