While breast cancer screening recommendations are directed to women age 40 and older, it is also important for younger women to be aware of their own breast health.
“Breast cancer in women under the age of 40 is relatively uncommon, affecting fewer than 7 percent of all new breast cancer diagnoses, but it still accounts for more than 13,000 new cases annually in the United States,” said Starr Mautner, M.D. , a breast surgeon at Miami Cancer Institute . “I have diagnosed enough patients in their 20s and 30s to know that it’s important for teenagers, in addition to young adults, to have a general understanding of breast cancer, the signs and symptoms and what to do if they feel something abnormal.”
Most women over the age of 40 have cancers that are detected via screening mammograms. The good news about early detection is that a significant number of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are receiving their diagnosis early thanks to mammogram screenings, Dr. Mautner says. She refers to a recent study, published online in the October issue  of the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), of nearly 33,000 women between 40 and 49 years old in the U.S. who had a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Women aged 40 to 49 represented 18.8 percent of all the breast cancers detected among the women, translating into a screening-detection cancer rate of 3.6 per 1,000.
The incidence of breast cancer found by mammogram screening was slightly higher for the second group of women studied. Those women, aged 45 to 49 years, had a screening-detected breast cancer rate of 4.1 per 1,000, representing 9.8 percent of all the women who took part in the research.
Annual Mammograms Starting at Age 40
As a result of the study, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) continue support the recommendations of the American College of Radiology (ACR) that women begin getting an annual screening mammogram at age 40.
Baptist Health South Florida also supports annual mammograms for women at average risk starting at age 40. One in six breast cancers occur in women age 40-49. Mammograms save lives in all women, and specifically in women age 40-45. When breast cancer is found early and in a localized state, the five-year survival rate is near 100 percent, according to the National Breast Center Foundation.
A patient’s ethnicity and personal and family history of cancer should also go into the equation to determine when a woman should start having screening  mammograms, Dr. Mautner adds and the ACS and USPSTF research found.
BRCA Gene and Breast Cancer
About 15 percent and 32 percent of women 40-44 years old and 45-49 years old, respectively, whose breast cancer was found through a screening mammogram, have a first-degree relative with breast cancer or the BRCA gene, according to the ACS and USPSTF research. However, more than 60 percent of the cancers found in the women of these two age groups was invasive, the research showed.
“The role BRCA mutations play, especially in younger women, is important to note,” Dr. Mautner said. “Women who are genetic mutation carriers or who have first degree relatives diagnosed with premenopausal breast cancer are recommended to start screening mammograms before the age of 40.”
For young women who do not meet criteria to start mammograms before the age of 40, Dr. Mautner stresses the importance of self-exam , familiarity with family history and general knowledge  of breast cancer as steps they can take to start screening early.
“If a mass is found either by the patient or by her physician, it should not be disregarded just because the patient is young. Every palpable mass should be taken seriously and worked up with appropriate imaging and biopsied when warranted.”
Mammograms Save Lives. Schedule your mammogram today.
When breast cancer is detected early, at a localized stage, the survival rate is 98 percent. During the month of May, Baptist Health is offering special mammogram pricing to patients without insurance. Through May 31, 2019, a screening mammogram is $50, and a diagnostic mammogram is $100. The radiologist’s fee for 3D mammogram is included in the special prices. To schedule an appointment, call 786-573-6000 in Miami-Dade or Broward, 305-434-1588 in Monroe, 561-374-5300 in Palm Beach or visit BaptistHealth.net/BreastHealth.