Young Women and Breast Cancer
There is never a good time to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but a particularly bad time is when you are very young, say under 35. It used to be believed that breast cancers in young women were more aggressive, and that theory has fortunately been discarded. The stance now is that stage for stage, the woman's age does not make much difference. Age does, however, make an enormous difference in the psychosocial issues related to the diagnosis and the treatment and the available supports.
The youngest woman whom I have ever known with breast cancer was diagnosed when she was 19. I have known a few others who were under 25, and quite a few who were between 25 and 35. A particularly painful issue often is fertility. Clearly, it is especially difficult if cancer is diagnosed during pregnancy (although all the research suggests that women in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters can be given chemo without hurting the baby), but is pretty terrible, too, if a woman has been planning or hoping for a pregnancy. It is certainly possible to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby after breast cancer, but the experience of the disease and treatment will delay any such plans for a while--and with women often being in their 30s when they begin to consider pregnancy, the delay may mean that biological children are an impossibility.
Breast cancer is also especially difficult for young women who are still building their careers, perhaps making it more difficult to take time off from work or school. Finances may be more challenging, and their friends usually are less skilled at being present and supportive. That is not a value judgment, but reflects the reality that, blessedly, most women in their 20s or early 30s have not yet had to deal with very difficult life experiences, so they have less personal experience in how to cope or how to help. By the time you get to be 50 or so, no one has escaped troubles, so you are more able to know what to offer and how to be present.
This is a very good article from Coping; I give you an excerpt and then a link:
The Not-So-Silent Minority
More than 290,000 women will be told they have breast cancer in the U.S. in 2013.
While breast cancer in women under 40 is still relatively rare, comprising about 5
percent of all breast cancer cases, it still accounts for more than 13,000 newly
diagnosed young women each yeaThe challenge in treating and caring for these young patients is a relatively new topic, one that has evolved over the past decade. Later this month, the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) will co-host its 13th annual gathering for young women
diagnosed with breast cancer with Living Beyond Breast Cancer. The organization
also has created a separate research think tank in Washington, D.C., to bring
together oncologists, professionals and advocates to discuss issues specific to
this population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory
Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, which was established in 2010,
will publish some of its first study findings within the next two years.
Whether the result of this new focus is a publication, a conference or
peer-to-peer support, those involved share common goals: focused research and
support for young women dealing with age-specific short- and long-term
consequences of breast cancer treatment.