Living Well

Breast Cancer in Young Women

Breast Cancer in Young Women

Breast cancer is rare in young women. Fewer than 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. occur in women under 40. A breast cancer diagnosis can be very shocking for young women. At a time in life most often reserved for family and career, issues of treatment, recovery and survivorship suddenly take top priority.

With treatment, the chances of survival for young women diagnosed with early breast cancer are good and most women can expect to live for many years. However, prognosis tends to be worse in women under 40 than in older women. Breast cancers in younger women are more likely to be fast-growing, higher grade and hormone receptor-negative. Each of these factors makes breast cancer more aggressive and more likely to require chemotherapy.

Young women being treated for breast cancer may be concerned about loss of fertility. Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, and both chemotherapy and tamoxifen can cause irregular periods or stop periods altogether. Both tamoxifen and chemotherapy also tend to bring on natural menopause earlier than normal, especially among women who are older than 40 during treatment. This limits time for pregnancy and childbirth.

Click here to learn more about the different treatment options and dealing with fertility.


SOURCE: Susan G. Komen Foundation