October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and health professionals say younger women are increasingly being diagnosed with the disease.
About one in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime, but survival rates are high if the disease is detected early.
Dr. Monika Wells, an internal medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente, said 50 is a well-known age for individuals to start getting screened for breast cancer. “If you sample individuals even among my patient population, they think of 50 as being the time they need to start getting mammograms,” said Wells. “But what we’re aiming for is to initiate those conversations earlier.”
Approximately one in eleven new breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women younger than 45. More than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the United States.
Wells suggested that it might be beneficial for some women to begin the screening process at age 40. “If we can determine who we can screen earlier and detect those initial cases,” Wells stated, “we essentially have a potentially ten-year advantage in treating the disease.”
When breast cancer is detected at its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate is 99%. Wells emphasized that this is another reason why screening women at a younger age is crucial. “Early detection,” Wells mentioned, “allows us to discover cancers in their initial stages, presenting a broader range of treatment options that might not be as accessible or could be more complex if the disease is more advanced.”