Health Partners: Be Equipped for Empowered Health at Any Age Part 1

January 5, 2024

The content below is provided by Riverside Cancer Care Network, a sponsor of H4TG’s A Calendar to Live By/Guide to Caring for Yourself.

Breast cancer can happen to anyone — even young women.

Did you know that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in young women? It’s also the most common form of cancer in women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Although many women with breast cancer have a close relative who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, 80% of all new breast cancer cases occur in women with no (or a remote) family history.

Unfortunately, breast cancer in young women is more likely to be an aggressive form that is fast growing, more challenging to treat and has a higher chance of recurrence and spread.

Most breast cancers in young women are self-detected. 

For women at average risk, screening mammograms are recommended to begin at age 40. In the meantime, if you’re a woman under 40, empowering yourself to be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel, and reporting any changes to your health care provider, can save your life. 

You know best what is normal for your body. 

Look at your breasts regularly. You’ll want to pay attention to any difference in how your breasts look or feel. Keep in mind, however, that a change in your breasts often does not indicate breast cancer.

If you notice something that doesn’t look or feel quite right, advocate for yourself and share your concern with your health care provider so that you can have a breast exam. Signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • A lump in the breast or under the arm
  • Skin changes, including a dimple, redness or thickening
  • Change in breast shape or size
  • Nipple discharge
  • Scaling or redness of the nipple and/or areola
  • Nipple retraction or deviation
  • New breast pain

Don’t ever feel hesitant or embarrassed to get something checked out. Your health care provider is there to address your concerns and care for you.

Don’t dismiss breast changes during the hectic pace of life.

Life for young women can be busy, and it is easy to put others’ needs first. When you first notice a change in how your breasts normally look and feel, it can be frightening. It’s human to want to dismiss it. It is also common for women to want to wait and see if it goes away on its own or think that it’s related to their menstrual cycle. Sometimes, it’s just hard to find time to make your health a priority. 

You may not be able to control what was found, but you can take the step to get it addressed quickly so that you have answers. Be it peace of mind or early detection, getting checked will always be in your best interest. 



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