When To Start Screening
We recommend mammogram screening to start no earlier than age 40 and no later than age 50 for women of average risk for breast cancer, and continue through to at least age 74, says Dr. Andrejeva-Wright. Screening mammography should occur at least once every two years. For women whose screening mammograms show they have dense breasts, an extra testa breast ultrasoundis recommended.
Dr. Andrejeva-Wright says it is important to talk with a health care provider about when you should start getting mammograms, based on your unique health profile, and to make an appointment to see your doctor if you notice any unusual breast changes.
Any time a woman feels a breast mass, which does not go away, while doing a breast self-exam at any age, she should get it checked out, says Dr. Silber.
More than half of the time, women detect breast cancers themselves when they notice an unusual breast change. Whenever there is a new mass or lump, tell your doctorit should be evaluated by a clinical physical examination followed by breast imaging, says Dr. Andrejeva-Wright. Other signs to be aware of include asymmetry of the breasts and nipple changes such as discharge or peeling skin around the nipple.
Says Dr. Andrejeva-Wright, These symptoms dont mean you have breast cancer, but its a reason to seek an opinion from a medical provider.
What Will The Doctor Do
Sometimes a doctor will discover a lump in a woman’s breast during a routine examination or a patient might come to the doctor with questions about a lump she found.
In other cases, a mammogram may find a lump in the breast that can’t be felt. A mammogram is a special kind of X-ray of the breast that helps doctors see what’s going on inside. Sometimes, other kinds of pictures, like an MRI, also can be taken.
When a lump is found, the doctor will want to test it. The best way to do this is usually with a biopsy. In a biopsy, a small amount of breast tissue is removed with a needle or during a small operation. Then, the tissue is examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
The biopsy may be benign , which means the lump is not cancer. If the biopsy shows cancer cells, the lump is malignant . If a breast lump does contains cancer cells, the woman, along with her doctor and family, will decide what to do next.
Yearly Screening Mammograms Are Not Recommended For Most Until Age 40 Most Patients Under 40 Who Learn They Have Breast Cancer Usually Sought An Exam Because They Have Felt A Lump Or Noticed Other Changes To Their Breasts
Laura Chamberlin first noticed a lump in her breast when she was a graduate student living in Seattle, Washington. She mentioned it to her primary care doctor, who told her not to worry.
She said, Youre young. You just have dense tissue, Laura recalled.
After moving to Louisville a year later to work as an art therapist, Laura went to an urgent care clinic for an ear infection. She mentioned the lump and was referred for a biopsy. Laura was 28 when she learned she had breast cancer.
It was definitely a shock, Laura said, though the diagnosis didnt feel real until she had made the difficult calls to family and friends to give them the news.
Patients under 40 like Laura make up 5% of breast cancer cases.
The numbers arent growing significantly. I think were doing a better job screening. Our screening has helped us find it earlier, said Blakely Kute, M.D., medical oncologist at Norton Cancer Institute Womens Cancer Center.
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Maintain A Healthy Attitude
It’s very important to maintain a healthy attitude, which is easier said than done, but the more you begin to maintain that healthy outlook, it gives you hope.”
“Stay strong and positive. Have a lot of faith in God and enjoy life one day at a time because tomorrow is never promised to anyone.”
In Your 40s You Should Get Your First Mammogram
If you’ve talked to your doctor, calculated your risk, and found that you do not need early screening or imaging, then your 40s is when you should be scheduling your first mammogram and continuing to get them annually .
If you have dense breast tissue, talk to your doctor about potentially adding in ultrasounds, and if you are at high risk of breast cancer, ask your doctor about whether she recommends adding in MRIs as well.
Dr. Hunt advises consulting the National Cancer Institute‘s website to educate yourself on the options and being fully informed of your family history, so you can advocate for the best imaging course of action for you.
“We want to be appropriate for each individual,” Dr. Hunt says. “You can take the information that you learn and bring that to your physician and personalize it. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. We all have different family histories and they evolve over time, of course.”
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Pregnancy Diagnosed During Or After Breast Cancer
Studies of pregnancy after a diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer are retrospective and most are case-controlled investigations. Although one study showed an increased risk for relapse, most other studies show either no difference in recurrence or a decrease in risk of recurrence. Breast cancer survivors and their medical caregivers are advised to fully discuss the risk of recurrence when discussing post-cancer reproductive choices.
Treatment Of Breast Cancer In Teens
Doctors treat secretory adenocarcinoma by surgically cutting out the cancer while sparing as much breast tissue as possible.
Depending on the type of therapy and how long it lasts, it can affect your fertility and increase your chances of other cancers.
You can still breastfeed after breast or nipple surgery. However, some people may produce less milk than others.
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Body Image In Young Women After Breast Cancer
Another hurdle young women face is how breast cancer treatments and their side effects affect body image.
There are incredible demands placed on women in American society about their appearance, says Dr. Silber, and I would not be truthful if I didnt say that a lot of women really struggle not only with treatment but with the aftermath. Its hard because how someone looks can be a part of their self-worth. They may have lost their hair and gained some weight. Their breasts dont look the same. To act like thats not a thing is not fairof course, it matters.
Young women may be looking for a partner at a time when breast cancer treatment causes them to experience body changes that women generally dont encounter until theyre older and postmenopausal: hot flashes and/or weight gain in the abdomenthe meno-pot.
Its different when these changes happen at 20 and 30, says Dr. Silber, who explains that hormonal therapies are used for certain types of breast cancers to control tumor growth and discourage recurrence. But, this life-saving treatment, which a woman will need to keep taking as long as she lives, puts female breast cancer survivors into premature menopausemany years or even decades before their peers.
In Your 50s You Should Optimize Your Health
Continue to build on your healthy habits . “In your 50s, you want to be sure that you’re doing everything in your body to keep cancerous changes from happening,” says Dr. Richardson. That includes:
- Consuming cruciferous vegetables. These contain sulforaphane, which are protective against breast cancer changes
- Avoiding processed foods and sugars. These can trigger insulin receptors which can drive the creation of cancers.
- Getting good sleep! Melatonin, which is created during sleep, is a cancer fighter.
- Avoiding stress.
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What Causes Breast Cancer
Many different things can affect your chances of getting breast cancer.
Theres no single cause. It results from a combination of the way we live our lives, our genes and our environment.
We cant predict who will get breast cancer. And we cant confidently say what might have caused someones breast cancer.
There are, however, some things you can do to lower your chances of getting it.
In Your 60s You Should Discuss Potential Preventative Treatments
The average age of breast cancer development is 59. In your 60s you should be understanding your screening process, the types of screenings you should have and understanding your risk. Additionally, if you have had a breast biopsy and there were findings on them that signify increased risk, you should be considering options for chemoprevention .
For example, Dr. Hunt says, that the treatments or preventions for osteoporosis can also be useful for risk reduction for breast cancer.
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Risks And Causes Of Breast Cancer
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown, but factors that seem to increase risk include:
- gender being a woman
- getting older women over 50 years of age are invited to take part in yearly mammograms to screen for breast cancer
- heredity having several close family members who have had breast cancer
- previous history of breast cancer women who have had breast cancer have a greater risk of developing it again
- certain breast diseases some types of breast disease that are found through mammograms indicate an increased risk.
Menstrual And Reproductive History
Starting menstrual periods at a younger age or going through menopause at a later age raises the bodys exposure to these hormones, which can increase a persons risk of breast cancer.
Females who have never given birth at full-term and those who had their first full-term pregnancy after the age of 30 years also have a higher risk of breast cancer, according to the NCI.
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How Old Do You Have To Be To Get Breast Cancer
A woman has a 12% absolute risk for developing breast cancer in her lifetime, but a womans personal cancer risk changes throughout her life. Breast cancer risk increases with age the two biggest factors for developing breast cancer are getting older and being a woman. Breast cancer doesnt just affect older women, however.
What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer
A woman who has breast cancer may have no problems, or she may find a painless lump in her breast. If women examine their breasts monthly, they can help find lumps or other changes that a doctor should examine.
Most breast lumps are not cancer, but all lumps should be checked out by a doctor to be sure. Breast lumps that are not cancer may be scar tissue or cysts or they can be due to normal breast changes associated with hormone changes or aging.
Girls who are beginning puberty might notice a lump underneath the nipple when their breasts start developing. Usually, this is a normal. You can ask a parent or your doctor about it to be sure.
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What Causes Breast Cancer In Your 20s And 30s
Breast cancer happens when cells in the breast begin to grow and multiply abnormally. Changes in DNA can cause normal breast cells to become abnormal.
The exact reason why normal cells turn into cancer is unclear, but researchers know that hormones, environmental factors, and genetics each play a role.
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 found to differ biologically in some cases from the cancers found in older women. For example, younger women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative and HER2-positive breast cancers than older women.
Here are some statistics about breast cancer in women under 40:
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
“Seek help from a therapist to address coping with your cancer diagnosis. Onco-psychologists are a great option as they specialize in helping cancer patients. Support groups and peer counselors are also wonderful resources to help navigate the hard realities of the life ling journey in staying cancer-free.”
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Risk For Different Age Groups
Although females are more likely to develop breast cancer after they reach the age of 50 years, younger women can also develop this condition.
According to the NCI, the risk that a doctor will diagnose breast cancer in a female in the United States within the next 10 years is:
- 1 in 227 for those aged 30 years
- 1 in 68 for those aged 40 years
- 1 in 42 for those aged 50 years
- 1 in 28 for those aged 60 years
- 1 in 26 for those aged 70 years
The also report that of the 437,722 females that doctors diagnosed breast cancer in between 2012 and 2016:
- 1.9% were aged 2034 years
- 8.4% were aged 3544 years
- 20.1% were aged 4455 years
- 25.6% were aged 5564 years
- 24.8% were aged 6574 years
- 13.7% were aged 7584 years
- 5.6% were aged 84 years+
Age is just one risk factor for developing breast cancer. Some other risk factors that people cannot control include:
For More Information See Breast Cancer On The Ncci Website
The National Cancer Control Indicators are a set of indicators across the continuum of cancer care, from Prevention and Screening through to Diagnosis, Treatment, Psychosocial care, Research and Outcomes. The NCCI website allows users to see visual representations of data on each indicator through interactive charts.
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Risk Factors You Can Change
- Not being physically active. Women who are not physically active have a higher risk of getting breast cancer.
- Being overweight or obese after menopause. Older women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those at a normal weight.
- Taking hormones. Some forms of hormone replacement therapy taken during menopause can raise risk for breast cancer when taken for more than five years. Certain oral contraceptives also have been found to raise breast cancer risk.
- Reproductive history. Having the first pregnancy after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
- Drinking alcohol. Studies show that a womans risk for breast cancer increases with the more alcohol she drinks.
Research suggests that other factors such as smoking, being exposed to chemicals that can cause cancer, and changes in other hormones due to night shift working also may increase breast cancer risk.
In Your 20 And 30s You Should Adopt Healthy Habits Early
Taking care of your overall health is important to prevention of breast cancer. Dr. Richardson gives the following advice to help lower your risk factors:
- Lay down the foundation of exercising regularly.
- Keep your BMI down and a healthy body weight.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Keep red meat and dairy consumption to a minimum and try to maximize a plant-based diet.
- Dr. Richardson suggests “one cup of soy a day and ground flax seed it’s one of the only food sources of lignans, which are incredibly protective of the breast tissue. They act like plant-based estrogen and calm the breast tissue down and really soothe it. Also, nice, high vitamin D levels.”
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Types Of Breast Lumps That Teens Can Get
The most common type of breast cancer found in teens is secretory adenocarcinoma. This is generally a slow growing, nonaggressive cancer.
Though theres little chance of this type of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, spread to local lymph nodes has been noted in a few cases.
Most breast lumps in teenage girls are fibroadenomas, which are noncancerous. An overgrowth of connective tissue in the breast causes fibroadenomas.
The lump is usually hard and rubbery, and you can move it around with your fingers. Fibroadenomas account for 91 percent of all solid breast masses in girls younger than 19 years old.
Other less common breast lumps in teens include cysts, which are noncancerous fluid-filled sacs.
Banging or injuring breast tissue, possibly during a fall or while playing sports, can also cause lumps.
If you feel anything unusual in your breast, see your doctor. They will ask:
- about your familys medical history
- when you discovered the lump
- if theres nipple discharge
- if the lump hurts
If anything looks or feels suspicious, your doctor will have you undergo an ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to see into your breasts. It can help determine whether a lump is solid, which is an indication of cancer.
If its fluid-filled, that will most likely indicate a cyst. Your doctor may also insert a fine needle into the lump to draw out tissue and test it for cancer.