Diagnosed With Breast Cancer In Her 20s Kelly Moyer Finds Her Way Back
When youre in your 20s, with your whole world ahead of you, the last thing you worry about is being struck with life-threatening breast cancer. But it can happen. Youth doesnt protect you. Just ask Kelly Moyer.
Only 26 years old, her world changed one morning in November 2019, when she found a lump in her right breast. Still half asleep, she felt a mild jolt of shock.
The lump was small. It was strange how it appeared out of nowhere, she says. I was concerned, but it was inconceivable to me that I might have breast cancer. It just wasnt on my radar. She resolved to have the lump checked at her upcoming checkup with her gynecologist.
A vibrant, active young woman, Moyer was focused on her future, on building a career, finding success, and exploring lifes possibilities. With a degree in neuroscience from Rutgers, she was working two jobs as a physical therapy aide and direct support professional. She found the work rewarding, and had started looking into graduate programs in occupational therapy.
No, I did not do regular breast self-examinations, says Moyer. Most young women dont do them. Thats not surprising when you consider that fewer than five percent of women under 40 are diagnosed yearly with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute .
The holidays came and went, and COVID-19 loomed on the horizon. Gradually the lump faded from her consciousness. I avoided thinking about it, trying to convince myself it was nothing, she says.
How Are Breast Lumps Treated In Children
Most breast lumps in children dont need treatment if they are not getting bigger or causing pain.
- A breast lump may only need to be monitored by a doctor to see if the lump gets larger or begins hurting.
- An ultrasound of the lump may be used to help diagnose what type of lump it is.
- The doctor may take a biopsy .
Lumps that are growing quickly may need to be surgically removed. This is done with a procedure called a lumpectomy .
Why Is Weight A Factor
Women who are overweight or obese have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies. Even though the ovaries stop making estrogen after menopause, the hormone is still stored and produced in fat tissue. Estrogen causes certain types of breast cancer to grow and spread. Work with your doctor to develop a weight loss plan that fits your life, if necessary.
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The Most Common Cancers In Young Adults
The types of cancers seen in young adults are not unique to this age group, but the most common types in this age range are largely different from those in children or older adults.
Some of the most common cancers in young adults are:
- Colorectal cancer
- Brain and spinal cord tumors
Even within this age group, some of these cancers become more or less common as people age. For example, lymphomas are more common before age 25, whereas breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers become more common after age 25.
Many other types of cancer can occur in young adults as well.
Women Aged 90 And Older
Of the 9 women in their nineties at the time of diagnosis, 4 were diagnosed by screening mammography and the remainder were diagnosed by a palpable abnormality. Three cancers occurred in patients who had previous contralateral breast cancer. Of the 9 women, 8 were diagnosed at early stages . Four of the tumors in the women aged 90 and older were treated with mastectomy while 5 were treated with partial mastectomy. Of the 6 invasive tumors, 4 underwent axillary staging , but 2 did not. Of the five cancers treated with partial mastectomy, none received adjuvant radiation therapy. With regards to ER status, 2 cancers were ER positive and were treated with tamoxifen, 1 cancer with an unreported ER status was treated with tamoxifen, 1 cancer was ER negative, and 5 cancers had unknown ER status.
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A Team Approach To Breast Cancer Treatment
Tran says older patients or anyone diagnosed with breast cancer can benefit from getting care at a comprehensive center, such as the one where she performs surgery: the Sullivan Breast Center at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Our team meets weekly to discuss individual patients cases, and that helps us bring the best thinking to each persons treatment plan, Tran says. Our combined experience supports every patient.
Breast Health Services
Can A 12 Year Old Girl Get Breast Cancer
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Risk Factors For Young Women
All women are at risk of developing breast cancer and the risk greatly increases with age with most cases of breast cancer occurring in women over the age of 50. There are a range of factors that can increase breast cancer risk in young women. The causes of breast cancer in young women can include lifestyle factors and non-lifestyle factors . Young women may have an increased risk of breast cancer due to factors such as:
- Family history A history of breast cancer among relatives is a strong risk factor for young women. A young womans risk of breast cancer is increased if a close relative, like a mother or aunt, has had breast or ovarian cancer. A young womans risk is further increased by the number of relatives affected and if her relatives were diagnosed with cancer at a young age
- Genetic susceptibility A high proportion of young women diagnosed with breast cancer have inherited mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes .
- Reproductive and hormonal factors- Early menarche increases the risk of breast cancer, and giving birth to the first child at a late age also increases risk.
- Alcohol intake Regularly drinking alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer for women of all ages. The risk of breast cancer rises as the number of drinks regularly consumed increases. Currently, there does not appear to be a safe level of regular alcohol consumption.
When You Need Help
As a young adult or teen, you are either becoming independent or you already are. Depending on your age, you might live on your own or even have your own family. But you will probably need some support to cope with cancer. Here are some ways to find emotional, spiritual, and practical help:
Talk with a friend, family member, teacher, or religious leader about your thoughts, feelings, and fears.
A social worker can help you find practical help, such as health insurance or rides to treatment. They can also help you find support groups. Talking to other teens or young adults with cancer can be very helpful. Learn more about support groups for young adults with cancer.
Reach out on social media. You can use Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps to stay connected with friends even if you miss work or school. You can also find other young adults with cancer. Learn about online communities for support.
Write about what you are going through. Writing can help you cope with stress.
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Teen Breast Cancer Causes And Symptoms
There are times that teen girls may discover a small lump in their breast, but it is almost always benign and typically triggered by normal hormonal fluctuations. These noncancerous lumps usually go away on their own. However, there are symptoms a doctor should be made aware of:
- The breast tissue hurts outside of normal soreness caused by a menstrual period
- Breast tissue puckers or dimples
- Itchy or scaly rash on breast
- Unexplained changes in breast symmetry, shape, and size
- Breast swelling, red, or hot to touch
- Nipple discharge is liquid or bloody
- Lump spreads to armpit or collarbone
- Lump is painful
- Lump is fixed to the chest wall
Due to the high amount of treatment options for teen breast development, the survival rate is high. Teenagers are healthy enough to tolerate the most aggressive therapies used to treat breast cancer. Thats why its best to avoid high-risk lifestyle behaviors that can increase this risk. The American Cancer Society has noted that although environmental and lifestyle behaviors are not strongly associated with breast cancer, its best to avoid engaging in risky ones like smoking and consistently unhealthy diets. Other behaviors like radiation exposure to treat other diseases like leukemia or Hodgkins disease in young girls can increase the risk of breast cancer development, which takes an average of 20 years to develop.
What Is The Youngest Age To Develop Breast Cancer
Breastcancer isnt common in women under 40. A womans risk of breastcancer throughout her 30s is just 1 in 227, or about 0.4 percent.By age 40 to 50, the risk is roughly 1 in 68, or about 1.5 percent.From age 60 to 70, the chance increases to 1 in 28, or 3.6 percent.. Out of all types of cancer, though, breastcancer is the most common among U.S. women.
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How Is Breast Cancer Caused
Breast cancer develops as a result of genetic mutations or damage to DNA. These can be associated with exposure to estrogen, inherited genetic defects, or inherited genes that can cause cancer, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. When a person is healthy, their immune system attacks any abnormal DNA or growths.
Unique Challenges For Young Adults
Breast cancer in young adults is just different. We are at a different phase of our lives and encounter unique challenges compared to older persons. These challenges may significantly impact our quality and length of life. Some of the unique challenges and issues young adults face:
- The possibility of early menopause and sexual dysfunction brought on by breast cancer treatment
- Fertility issues, because breast cancer treatment can affect a womanâs ability and plans to have children
- Many young women are raising small children while enduring treatment and subsequent side effects
- Young breast cancer survivors have a higher prevalence of psychosocial issues such as anxiety and depression13
- Questions about pregnancy after diagnosis
- Heightened concerns about body image, especially after breast cancer-related surgery and treatment
- Whether married or single, intimacy issues may arise for women diagnosed with breast cancer
- Challenges to financial stability due to workplace issues, lack of sufficient health insurance and the cost of cancer care
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Breast Cancer Vs Normal Development
Normal breast development can resemble breast cancer, and it is not possible to tell what is normal and what is not based on a comparison of symptoms.
Normal breast development, however, usually follows a pattern. It begins with nickel-sized lumps under each nipple, and the breasts gradually grow from these lumps.
Breast cancer, in general, is survivable with prompt treatment. This is particularly true of noninvasive breast cancers, and of breast cancers that have not spread to other areas of the body.
Treatments often include chemotherapy, radiation, medication, surgery, or a combination of these.
What Is The Risk Of Breast Cancer In Women In Their 30s
A womans risk of breast cancer throughout her 30s is just 1 in 227, or about 0.4 percent. By age 40 to 50, the risk is roughly 1 in 68, or about 1.5 percent. From age 60 to 70, the chance increases to 1 in 28, or 3.6 percent. Out of all types of cancer, though, breast cancer is the most common among U.S. women.
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Can You Get Cancer In Your 20s
But for statistics purposes, cancers in young adults are often thought of as those that start between the ages of 20 and 39. Cancer is not common in young adults, but a wide variety of cancer types can occur in this age group, and treating these cancers can be challenging. Most cancers occur in older adults.
Why Do People Get Breast Cancer
Any woman can get breast cancer, but these things can make some women more likely to get it:
- Family history: A woman whose mother, sister, aunt, or daughter has had breast cancer is more likely to get it.
- Age: As women get older, they are more at risk for breast cancer. Teens as well as women in their twenties and thirties are less likely to get breast cancer.
- Diet and lifestyle choices: Women who smoke, eat high-fat diets, drink alcohol, and dont get enough exercise may be more at risk for developing breast cancer.
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Trends In Breast Cancer Deaths
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 39 .
Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have been steady in women younger than 50, but have continued to decrease in older women. From 2013 to 2018, the death rate went down by 1% per year.
These decreases are believed to be the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness, as well as better treatments.
What Percentage Of Breast Cancer Is Inherited
Roughly 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to inherited gene mutations. The most well-known are breast cancer gene 1 and breast cancer gene 2 . If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, your doctor may suggest testing your blood for these specific mutations. Breast cancer in your 20s and 30s has been
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When Should A Woman Get Tested For Breast Cancer
Women who are at high risk for breast cancer based on certain factors should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year, typically starting at age 30. This includes women who: Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of about 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history
Are My Breasts Normal
One of my breasts is bigger than the other.
Its quite common for breasts to be slightly different in size or to have one which sits slightly higher or lower than the other. While theyre developing they might also grow at different rates, although they usually look about the same by the end of the process.
My breasts feel lumpy
As breast tissue continues to develop, your breasts may feel generally lumpy and tender. This is due to fluctuating hormones and will usually settle down over time.
My nipples dont point outwards
In 10-20% of girls, the nipples may be flat or be drawn inwards on one or both sides. This is normal and does not create any health problems. It might have been present from birth or it may occur as the breasts develop.
My nipples dont look the same
Nipples come in many different sizes and shapes. They may point up, down, or away from each other. They can be pale or dark, large or small, and may not look completely alike.
I have little lumps around my nipples
The skin on the areola contains little glands known as Montgomerys tubercles. They look like little bumps or pimples on the skin and they produce a fluid which moisturises the skin of the areola and nipple.
I have hair around my nipples
Some girls will notice a few hairs growing around the edge of the areola. This is quite common and if it bothers you it can be removed by cutting or plucking the hair.
My breasts hurt or feel uncomfortable
Ive got a red spot/area on my breast
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Risk Factors For Death
Young age at diagnosis is a risk factor for death following local recurrence. Progression to metastatic disease is more likely in AYA compared to older women who present with early stage breast cancer. Among AYAs, the risk of cancer-related death is higher in patients with triple negative and hormone receptor negative, HER2 enriched breast cancer subtypes compared to those with hormone receptor positive, HER2 non-enriched disease .
Somatic mutations in exons 5 to 8 of the tumor suppressor gene TP53, which occur in approximately 30% of all malignant breast tumors, are more common in tumors of AYAs than older women, and confer increased risk of tumor-related death , particularly for patients with hormone-receptor negative disease . Germline mutations in PALB2 are associated with strong predisposition to early onset breast cancer and inferior breast cancer survival .
Co-morbid medical conditions may increase breast cancer mortality in AYAs. Among premenopausal breast cancer patients, obesity is associated with poor prognosis , and type 2 diabetes mellitus is associated with inferior DFS, increased recurrence and metastasis compared to age-matched breast cancer patients without these conditions.
How Is Breast Cancer In Children Treated
The treatment for cancer of the breast in children varies and will depend on the tumor or type of cancer.
Children with benign fibroadenomas dont usually need treatment. Instead, theyll be carefully monitored for changes that might indicate concern, such as changes in size or characteristics of a mass. In many cases, the fibroadenomas will disappear without any treatment at all.
Children with malignant breast cancer will need treatment. Theyll receive care from a pediatric oncology team.
Treatments normally include:
- radiation therapy to target and kill the cancer cells and stop the growth of new cancer cells
- surgery to remove the tumor
New therapies, including targeted drug therapies to attack cancer cells without harming other cells in the body, are an option. Treatment will also depend on the childs overall health and whether other cancers are present.
The pediatric oncology team will help develop the appropriate plan for each child.