Thanks to several decades of amazing efforts to promote awareness of breast cancer and bring attention to the need for continued breast cancer research, the month of October is now practically synonymous with breast cancer awareness…and its iconic symbol, the pink ribbon.
For more than a decade, the incidence of breast cancer cases diagnosed each year has declined, a step in the right direction for sure. But there is one population of breast cancer patients that is often overlooked – young women, age 40 or younger. Young women can and do get breast cancer. In fact more than 13,000 young women will receive that diagnosis by year’s end and about 1,200 women under the age of 40 die from breast cancer each year. Also, compared to older women, young women generally face more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates. More and more evidence tells us that breast cancer before the age of 40 actually differs biologically from the cancer found in older women.
The emotional toll on young women with breast cancer is also great – issues such as the effects treatment will have on fertility and the possibility of early menopause, questions about pregnancy after diagnosis, juggling treatment while caring for young children, concerns about body image, and more. And because breast cancer occurs at a much lower rate among young women than in their older counterparts, young women are often underrepresented in research studies.
Until recently, anyone 40 or younger diagnosed with breast cancer had fewer resources available to help them understand and deal with the realities of treatment and its aftermath on their lives. The good news is, today there is an organization that was created expressly to address the needs of the young woman with breast cancer – YSC or the Young Survival Coalition. YSC offers educational programs designed to reach not only a core audience of young women affected by breast cancer, but also members of the medical community, friends, family members, caregivers, the breast health community, healthy young women and the general public. It also provides resources and assistance to women from initial diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.
If you, a friend or loved one are age 40 or younger and have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are not alone. The Young Survival Coalition is there for you to answer your questions, offer support and help you connect with other women like you who are going through the same thing. You might consider them…sisters in survival, and they are a powerful and empowering force.
For more information about YSC go to www.youngsurvival.org.