October 2, 2000
Young Women and Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a media blitz that stresses that early detection is the best chance of a cure. Thousands of truly concerned people, many afflicted by breast cancer, enter races, buy pink ribbons, and remind their loved ones to get mammograms. The reality is that there is no cure for breast cancer, and the rate of breast cancer is increasing. Early detection is not good enough, we are dying out here.
Mammograms are not recommended for women under 40. Most cancers in younger women are detected through self-breast exams. By the time a lump can be detected, the cancer has been there for some time and may have spread through the lymph or blood system. Even in women who are relieved to find that their lymph nodes are cancer free, there is about a 20-30% chance that the cancer has entered the bloodstream. Early detection can save lives, but often, despite finding the cancer before there are detectable tumors in other parts of the body, the disease is fatal. Younger women often get the more aggressive types of breast cancer.
There is a desperate need to go beyond the message of awareness this month and increase funding for a cure. Young women are dying, leaving behind young families. We need a cure, we can't wait.