Breast Cancer Under 40: What You Need to Know

Every October our news feeds and communities come together to bring awareness to Breast Cancer. As someone who is a big advocate for everything that affects women, I’ve participated in my fair share of Breast Cancer related charities & events; but to be completely honest, I never had anyone in my family or anyone I knew personally affected by Breast Cancer so there was a slight disconnect with the cause.  

A friend of mine from High School gave me a call that started with “There’s something I need to tell you”.  When you’re in your mid-thirties, the answers to that statement are usually a) you’re pregnant b) you’re getting married c) you’re getting divorced.  Never would I have EVER guessed that the words, “I have been diagnosed with breast cancer” would be said at 35.  Weeks later I found out that another girlfriend of mine, also in her mid-thirties and a mother of 3, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I immediately felt connected to this cause

In my mind, Breast Cancer wasn’t something I’d have to worry about until I was way into my Forties and even less if I had no family history of it.  Boy, was I wrong.

I contacted my friends at UM Health and asked if we can have one of their experts come to the Vixen Workout Studio and speak to our members about Breast Cancer.  Specifically, Breast Cancer awareness for those of us under 40.  

The lovely Dr. Carmen Calfa, a Breast Oncologist from the Sylvester Cancer Center, spent an afternoon with us answering some of our questions and educating us on what we need to know about Breast Cancer under 40.

IMG_6765.PNGHere are some of the things we learned from Dr. Calfa:

  • Her Breast Cancer patients ages range from 18 being the youngest ranging all the way to 80.
  • The fight against Breast Cancer has had a lot of progress in the last 20yrs. The Mortality rate has decreased significantly— an improvement of 40%.
  • Only 20-30% of cancers diagnosed have family history. 
  • If you don’t have any family history, being checked by 40 is still the recommended age.
  • About 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime during their lives.  By contrast, 55-65% of women who inherit the BRCA gene will develop Breast Cancer in their lifetime.  
  • Although the mortality rates have decreased, the drop in age where the diagnosis is happening has increased. It’s a population that usually don’t screen and don’t do mammograms because they think they’re too young.
  • 250,000 of the women living in the US today were diagnosed with breast cancer and are under the age of 40. 80% of those women found the cancer through self examination.
  • 20% of cancers can be missed by imaging.

Are there any factors causing this drop in age? Whats different?

Dr Calfa explains, Everything is different.  The food we eat, for example, in comparison to what our grandmothers used to eat.  We eat food filled with preservatives.

The amount of social drinking has increased tremendously and drinking has been associated to Breast Cancer.  We don’t really talk about it, but 1 drink a day is too much.  You need to cut your drinking to 3-5 drinks a week. 

Women are now much more focused on their careers and are pushing having children later in life and choosing not to breastfeed, some of us stay on birth control for 20+ years, all of these things contribute to increasing your risk of getting Breast Cancer.  

It’s CLEAR that you don’t need to have someone in your family diagnosed with Breast Cancer to be at risk for Breast Cancer.  What if you DO have family history, what steps do women with family history need to take to be proactive about their health?

It is so important to pay attention to your family history and to know what kinds of cancer is in your family history.  I see so many people not pay attention to the dad’s side, for example, Prostate Cancer is linked to the same gene that causes Breast Cancer and so is Lynch Syndrome.  It is important to know your family history, Mom & Dad’s side, 3 generations up.  

If you have 1st or 2nd degree family members who were diagnosed (Mothers/Fathers/Siblings/Grandparents/Aunts/Uncles) that were less than 50 when they were diagnosed, you need to get checked 10 years down. For example, if a family member was diagnosed at 45 you need to start getting checked at 35.

When getting a mammogram, go to a Radiology Certified place like the Sylvester Cancer Center.  3D Mammography is now available and it increased the detection of Breast Cancer by 40%.  Here are some awesome tips on how to self-screen and stay breast aware. 

Special Thanks to our friends at UM Health for making this happen and Dr. Calfa for educating us!

xoxo

Janet Jones