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Mar 7, 2013 10:38 AM by Elizabeth Hill

Breast cancer on the rise in younger women

"Stable is as good as it gets."

For Rachel Wickman laughter is the best medicine.

Pregnant with her second child at age 35, Wickman discovered a lump in her breast. Her doctor initially thought it was a blocked milk duct, but after giving birth it was still there.

"I had a newborn and a 1-year-old at home, I had post partum depression after my second pregnancy, so it's not something you think about everyday."

Wickman waited more than a year to get it checked and when she did the diagnosis was grim. Stage four breast cancer already spread to her bones and brain. Immediately, she thought of her family.

"My first initial thought was they wouldn't remember who I was."

Breast surgeon Dr. Tyshaun James-Hart at Women's and Children's Hospital says aggressive characteristics of tumors seem to be found more in younger women.

"Be proactive and aware of your own risk factors. That doesn't mean you hit the panic button."

Statistically, Wickman says she has only a two to eight percent chance of living five years. She's already beating the odds and doing it all with a smile on her face.

"I'm two years out and I'm doing pretty good, so hopefully I'm going to beat at least the five year mark."

Breast cancer isn't typically something women under 40 worry about or even really think about, but it should at least be on their radar.

A recent study shows a slight increase in the number of women age 25 to 39 developing breast cancer.

Though this is a preliminary study and there is no indication as to why there has been an increase, it is worrisome because it involved cancer that had already spread to organs like the liver or lungs by the time it was diagnosed.

Standard recommendations suggest women 40 and over get a mammogram annually, but no matter what your age, if you notice a lump, get it checked right away.

James-Hart says younger women are still at a lower risk for breast cancer than women over 40, but it is important to know your risk factors and discuss them with your doctor.

James-Hart also says anecdotally, not based on any study or statistics, she has noticed more young women come into her office with breast cancer.

 

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