Breast cancer in women under 40 – 8 takeaways

Each year, approximately 12,000 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which represents less than 5% of all breast cancer cases, and is the most common cancer in women of this age. age range.

During her lifetime, a woman has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer. Regardless of your age, you should be aware of the risk factors. In many cases of breast cancer, early diagnosis is the key to survival.

1. Self-examination of the breasts

While women under 40 account for less than 5% of diagnosed breast cancer cases, breast cancer is a leading cause of death among young women aged 15-34. It is important to know the morphology of your breasts. Ask your doctor to teach you how to do a breast self-examination, to help you detect changes that will need to be examined by a doctor.

2. Know the risk factors for breast cancer

Younger women may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer according to different criteria:

• Certain inherited genetic mutations for breast cancer (BRCA1 and/or BRCA2).

• A personal history of breast cancer before the age of 40

• Two or more first-degree relatives (mother, sister, daughter) with breast cancer diagnosed at an early age.

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• High dose irradiation of the chest

• Early onset of menstruation (before age 12)

• First full-term pregnancy over 30 years old.

• Dense breasts

• Heavy alcohol consumption

• Obesity

• Sedentary lifestyle

• High consumption of red meat and poor diet

• Personal history of endometrial, ovarian or colon cancer

• Recent use of an oral contraceptive

3. Changes to look out for in the appearance of your breasts

It is advisable to monitor the apparent changes in your breasts, if you notice any of the following symptoms, consider consulting your doctor:

• An unusual mass felt during self-examination of your breasts

• Change in the size or shape of your breast

• Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin

• A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed in instead of out).

• Skin redness, pain, rash

• Swelling of the site

• Discharge from the nipple (this may be watery, milky, yellow or blood).

Breast tissue can have irregularities, so it’s important to be familiar with the usual sensation when you palpate your breasts to detect an abnormal situation. Many women choose to self-examine their breasts to see if a new lump is appearing, it’s a great habit. However, breast self-examination does not replace mammography.

These changes do not necessarily indicate that you have breast cancer, but they could and should be evaluated.

4. Be persistent and talk about it

Be your own advocate and be sure to tell your doctor about any changes or lumps in your chest. Some patients’ concerns are dismissed because they are « too young » to have breast cancer. If you think you are feeling something, ask your doctor for answers. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.

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5. Find the right doctor

If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is important to find the right medical team that you can trust. It can be tempting to stick with your first doctor, but it’s always good to get a second opinion and make sure you’re seeing the right specialists for your type of cancer.

You can see several types of oncologists, including medical oncologists, surgeons, and radiation therapists. The specialist you will meet should have a multidisciplinary knowledge of cancer, its genetics and other aspects.

6. Know your medical history

It is important to know your family history and share it with your doctor. Women with a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has had breast cancer are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as a woman with no family history.

Tell your doctor which member(s) of your family has had breast cancer or other gynecological diseases, and how old they were at the time of diagnosis.

7. Know that it’s okay to ask questions

Ask questions ! You must actively participate in your care journey. Your medical team should explain any medical terms you do not understand, explain treatment options, possible side effects, and expected outcome.

Ask for referrals to other specialists to learn more about your breast cancer. If you haven’t yet been diagnosed with breast cancer but are at high risk, ask your doctors about preventive measures you can take and order further tests if necessary.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends for support. Look for support groups with other people who are going through what you are going through or have been through it. Bring a close friend or family member to your appointments to take notes or record your visit, and to encourage you to seek clarification if anything is unclear. Do not hesitate to express your feelings and concerns.

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8. Network with other young women

You can feel isolated when you are diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, meeting other women your age who are going through the same situation as you or who have overcome breast cancer can be a good decision. You can start by asking your doctor if there are support groups in your area, or researching them on social media.

Many breast cancer survivors and their families choose to participate in marathons and other fundraising events. This group dynamic is an asset to help you overcome this cancer, do not hesitate to contact them.

With all our best wishes!

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