Breast Cancer can happen before 40

October is widely known and celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo provided by Pixababy.

October is largely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While it is most common in women who are 50 years old or older, pre-menopause breast cancer should not be ignored. 

Those who have a personal history of breast cancer, high-risk lesions found through a biopsy, or have a family history of cancer – particularly breast cancer at a younger age – are at risk. 

According to breastcancer.org, “Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease. However, only about 5-10% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning they’re caused by abnormal changes – or mutations – in certain genes passed from parent to child. The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.”

People with a family history of a concerning genetic syndrome may have a higher risk for breast cancer. This can be breast cancer diagnosed before age 50, ovarian cancer at any age, triple negative breast cancer, bilateral breast cancer, male breast cancer, pancreatic cancer or metastatic prostate cancer. Genetic mutations confer the higher risk for the development of breast cancer. 

Anyone who has radiation therapy to the chest or abdomen is at a higher risk than those who don’t. Those with an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews carry mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2. 

Breast cancer in younger people is different from that of the typical diagnosis age. It is harder to diagnose in younger adults because the muscle and breast tissue is much more dense. It is also known to be more aggressive and more treatment resistant. Even healthcare professionals make the mistake of telling patients to ignore lumps and other symptoms because of the adopted “wait and see” policy. Younger adults who have been diagnosed typically see more problems later with sexuality, mental health, fertility and pregnancy. Some treatments make it unsafe for mothers to breastfeed even if they are not doing chemo treatments at the time. Breastfeeding is also recommended as it can be done as a prevention. 

Prevention is typically the same for both young and older people. Any woman who notices changes to their body should seek medical attention. Second opinions are welcome. Keeping a healthy diet and exercise routine can be done as a preventive measure, as well as limiting alcohol, tobacco and drug usage. One of the largest and easiest preventive actions is to keep track of the body. Be weary of any changes in skin color and texture. Take note of any changes, perform regular breast exams. Those at a higher risk for pre-menopausal cancer should try to get mammograms done regularly.  

As the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month nears, it is important to remember that cancer does not see age. Breast cancer is a serious diagnosis but is preventable and can be treated. Everyone is at risk and it’s important for all women to know where they stand on the severity of it.