At Here for the Girls, our mission is specifically to help young women – we serve those diagnosed under age 51. If you are wondering why we focus on this population, it’s due to two main factors: 1) typical support groups are filled with more older than younger women (the median age for breast cancer is 63), and 2) young women face many different challenges because of their age and season of life than their more mature counterparts, challenges that can impact them far beyond diagnosis and treatment.
So, what are these “different challenges”? Women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are often in the midst of their careers and many are building and raising families. A cancer diagnosis and treatment can mean loss of work and income (on top of high medical costs), the financial impact of which can last for years; most breast cancer treatments put women in early menopause, which can lead to infertility; the physical and psychological impacts of treatment can cause sexual and relationship issues; treatment effects make it hard to have the energy needed to raise children and/or sustain careers; and treatments can cause long-term health problems that will impact a younger woman for more years of her life (including possible bone-density loss, heart damage, neuropathy, and lymphedema). Then there’s the fear of recurrence (we’ve named it “The Stalker”) that can arise with every ache or pain.
According to recent research, younger women with breast cancer consistently show greater psychological distress than older women. Also, breast cancers in women under age 40 often have more aggressive features, tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, and often have worse outcomes.
But it’s not all doom and gloom (seriously ☺). The good news is 1) technology and treatments are always improving to increase life span and quality of life, and 2) there are organizations like Here for the Girls that can help! We offer robust social-emotional support for young women who face not just treatment, but long-term cancer survivorship issues. We provide lots of ways for these young women to connect with others like them who can offer understanding, information, and sisterhood so they can face (and conquer!) these challenges together. We call this “loving support.”
Yes, a cancer diagnosis comes with challenges, but one thing we have learned from years of experience working with women who have gone through this journey is that most come out on the other side with a new appreciation for the wonderful things and people in their lives.
Most women decide to try new things, change old habits, meet new people, and have new adventures. At H4TG we call that “living life with an exclamation point instead of a period,” and we totally encourage it!