I admit, sometimes I forget to do my monthly breast self-exam. I know it's crucial for early diagnosis of breast cancer, but I can't help thinking that it's not something I have to worry about until I'm in my 40s. But as BettyConfidential points out, young women get breast cancer, too...in fact, probably more than you might think.
There's no need to panic: As you can see from the numbers below, breast cancer in women under 45 is rare. However, it is still important to watch out for it.
- Nearly, 10 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer this year will be 45 or younger—that's 24,000 women under age 45 who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
- There are more than 250,000 survivors under age 40 currently living in the U.S.—many of whom were diagnosed in their 20s.
- Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women under 40.
And, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Web site, the other scary fact about breast cancer in young women is that when it occurs under age 45, "it is often detected at later stages, is more likely to be aggressive, and is less like to be responsive to hormone therapies."
So what can you do?
- Beginning at age 18, perform monthly breast self-exams—preferably in the week after your period. Look for any changes as well as lumps, discharge, or abnormal pain.
- Do not ignore early warning signs. If you find a lump or notice any changes in the breast tissue, consult a doctor.
- I found a Breast Cancer Risk Calculator online that you can take if you are wondering if you are at risk. (Please not this quiz should not in any way take the place of a visit to a doctor to discuss your concerns.)
- Support the Early Act, which is a bill recently introduced in Congress that would increase awareness about breast cancer and young women through public education, additional training for health care professionals, and support services for young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. It takes less than a minute: Visit the Early Act link above to fill out an online form to encourage your senator to co-sponsor the bill.
Do you know someone who had breast cancer under the age of 45? Are you good about preforming monthly breast self-exams?