Statistics support that breast cancer is not a young person’s cancer. “Just under 7% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old,” states WebMD.
Indeed, when I browse Cancer for College’s digital files to profile a scholarship recipient who had survived breast cancer, there were just a few individuals over the past several years. This is understandable, given that the target age range of our applicants is between 15 and 22 years old.
“However,” continues WebMD, “breast cancer can strike at any age, and women of every age should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer.”
An additional concern: childhood cancer survivors who received chest radiation may be at higher risk for developing breast cancer later in life.
“Several studies have shown that women treated with radiation to the chest for cancer during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood have an increased risk of developing breast cancer as they get older,” states Children’s Oncology Group in their Breast Cancer Survivorship Guidelines.
Additionally, a new study released this week shows that survivors of Wilms Tumor, a rare childhood cancer, run the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. (Read a detailed article by clicking here.)
While most childhood cancer survivors will not go on to develop breast cancer, it is especially important for survivors to remember they may be at higher risk, and to be more aware of risk factors and warning signs.
The known risk factors below apply to all women, as stated on Survivorship Guidelines.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
- Early menstruation (before 12 years old)
- Late menopause (after age 55)
- Never having a baby or having a first baby after age 30
- A close relative with breast cancer
- Being overweight
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
Other possible risk factors:
- High fat diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Never breastfeeding
- Birth Control Pills
- Hormone replacement therapy taken for long periods of time
Breast Cancer Warning Signs (from American Cancer Society)
- A new lump or mass
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
A more detailed description on warning signs can be found on The Susan G. Komen website.
If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please contact your medical provider.
Wishing you health and happiness today and always, from everyone at Cancer for College.
Breast Cancer Resources
- Young Cancer Coalition
- National Cancer Institute
- American Cancer Society
- Susan G. Komen
- Survivorship Guidelines: Breast Cancer following Childhood Cancer