DENVER (CBS4) – There has been an increase in advanced cases of breast cancer in younger women and now the experts want to know why.
The findings are very concerning because younger women tend to have aggressive cancer and lower survival rates.
Elena Wortzel is 27, but she already gets mammograms because of her family history of breast cancer.
“It’s scary. You don’t think of it coming into younger people like that,” Wortzel said. “You think of it as kind of an older kind of disease.”
Wortzel’s worries are understandable as more women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer at an early age. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds a small but significant increase in advanced breast cancer among women in their 20s and 30s. Researchers found the rate has gone up each year since 1976.
“These are young women — 25 to 39 — they’re supposed to live to age 80 on average. That’s not going to happen. That’s very concerning and troublesome,” said. Dr. Dev Paul, breast oncologist with the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. “We’re seeing this in the clinic. We’re seeing younger women coming in with more advanced disease Stage 4 right from the get go.”
Approximately 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. every year and 11,000 are under 40. There are no routine screenings recommended for that age group.
Experts say younger women usually don’t know something is wrong until they feel a lump.
“We should be finding this at Stage 1, not Stage 4, and why is that? We don’t know,” Paul said.
The researchers say more studies need to be done to figure out why the numbers are going up.
“What can we do about it is an even more important question,” Paul said.
Until they come up with screening for younger women, Paul says they need to be more aware, and if they feel a mass tell their doctor.