Breast cancer in young women under the age of 40 is considered rare. However, recent studies have shown that the rate of late stage advanced or metastatic breast cancer in this same population has been trending upward at an alarming rate. Metastatic means it has already spread to other places in the body like in the bones, liver, brain or lungs. There were 250 cases diagnosed in the 1970’s and in recent years, that number has more than tripled to 800. Early detection and treatment of advanced breast cancer in younger women can reverse outcomes.

Dr. Becky Johnson, an oncologist at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, and a young breast cancer survivor herself, has been studying metastatic breast cancer in young women for years. In the following video, Dr. Johnson discusses her findings and confirms that more research needs to be done to to find potential causes.

Dr. Johnson’s research has been published in the Journal of The American Medical Association.

Are Mammograms the Best Way to Detect Cancer in Younger Women?

The American Cancer Society provides the following breast cancer screening guidelines for pre-menopausal women:

  1. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast changes to their health professional right away.
  2. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.

Breast cancer surgeon Dr. Deanna Atti not only discusses the facts of metastastic breast cancer but also addresses the use of mammograms in detecting breast cancer for women between the ages of 25 and 39.

Breast Cancer Treatment for Young Women

Once diagnosed, treatment options are mainly based on cancer stage and TNM classifications or tumour characteristics. provides a complete overview of breast cancer stages and the TNM classifications.

Protecting Fertility During Cancer Treatment

This is an important concern among young women when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries and both chemotherapy and tamoxifen can cause irregular periods or stop periods altogether.

The following video from John Hopkins Breast Center clearly defines the risks associated with fertility and breast cancer treatment in pre-menopausal women.

More Reading
Breast Cancer in Young Women
Unique Issues for Young Women with Breast Cancer
A Snapshot of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancers
Breast Carcinomas Arising at a Young Age: Unique Biology or a Surrogate for Aggressive Intrinsic Subtypes?
Breast Cancer in Young Women
I’m a Younger Woman with Breast Cancer


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