Saturday, June 15, 2024

BLACK TO LIFE – Age is more than a number: Young women can get breast cancer

By Dr. Annette Mayes

There are many young women who believe they are not susceptible to breast cancer. This may be true for some, but there are a number of factors that might dictate further examination and investigation.

Dr. Annette Mayes

Researchers have found that only 7% percent of breast cancers occur in women under the age of 40. Nevertheless, factors including family medical history and other health conditions mean that breast cancer can strike anyone at any age. In fact, the medical history of female family members is a leading indicator, serving as a precautionary signal that, for some younger women, might warrant regular breast self-exams and mammograms.

Some younger women may delay breast exams when they experience such warning signs as lumps and unusual breast discharge, believing they are too young to have breast cancer. However, every woman with a family history of the disease should make regular visits to her gynecologist to identify early warning signs. There is a “Gail Index” score that uses a number of factors — age, family history, age of first menstrual period and first pregnancy, number of breast biopsies — to calculate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer within five years. Other risk factors include heavy consumption of alcohol and red meat, dense breasts, obesity and race.

When having medical exams, younger women should not be discouraged by irregularities in their breasts such as identifiable cysts or tumors found in their mammogram screenings. Mammograms may not be as effective when performed on younger women, because of dense breast tissue, with less tissue available to provide the clearest possible scanning.
The best advice is to stay in tune with your body — because some health providers may want to delay further breast exams in younger women, opting instead to wait and track the progression of the reported symptoms. You have to trust your instincts and the way your body feels. Stay persistent with your health provider when your breast is not feeling normal.
Breast cancer in younger women is very aggressive, and an early diagnosis will ease your worries — and in some cases, save a life.

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