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5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer.

5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer.
  • April 27 2017

  1. Know Your Breasts. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women aged 15 to 34. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of breast self-exams. If you choose to do breast self exams, your doctor can review how to do them with you. (WebMD.com has an online guide; search “breast self exam.”) If you know how your breasts “should” feel, you’ll know when there’s a significant change that means you should call your doctor.
  2. Be Persistent. If you think you feel “something,” and family or doctors dismiss your concerns because you’re “too young for breast cancer,” it might be tempting to believe them and not seek further answers. But you have to be your own advocate, says McAndrew. “The youngest patient I’ve seen was 18 when she felt the mass, and 22 when she was found to have stage IV breast cancer. She kept telling doctors that she felt something and was worried about it, but they dismissed it because she was ‘too young.’”
  3. Doctor Shop. Don’t automatically go with the first doctor you see. And yes, you have time. “Most breast cancers are not like other cancers where you have to start treatment immediately,” says McAndrew. “You want a treatment team you’re comfortable with and that is aware of all the newer approaches, such as genetics, neoadjuvant therapy (chemotherapy before surgery), and looking at molecular markers of your tumor to figure out your individual risk.”
  4. Research Your Options. “Learn about things like stage and grade, and what they mean to your treatment options,” Applegate says. “No question is stupid. Every question is important.” Good online sources for information, recommended by Applegate and McAndrew, include breastcancer.org, the Young Survival Coalition (youngsurvival.org), and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE, facingourrisk.org), for women at genetically higher risk of developing cancer.
  5. Network with Other Young Women. “Breast cancer when you’re in your 20s, 30s, and even 40s can be so isolating,” McAndrew says. “Look online and ask your doctor for connections with other women your age. Women with breast cancer are amazing -- women who’ve never met are connected by a doctor or a friend, and they’ll visit each other at home or pick someone up and take them to chemo. It isn’t a group you’d ever sign up for, but it’s a group that can make dealing with cancer as a young woman so much less lonely and difficult.”

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