Young Women & Breast Cancer Fact Sheet

  • Although rare, younger women can also develop breast cancer.
  • 5% of all breast cancers occur in women under the age of 40.
  • In this year alone, nearly 10,000 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Diagnosing breast cancer in young women can be more difficult because their breast tissue is often denser than the breast tissue of older women.
  • Young women’s cancers are generally more aggressive and result in lower survival rates.
  • Young women with breast cancer struggle with many issues that their post-menopausal counterparts don’t face, including: the possibility of early menopause, pregnancy after diagnosis, generally more advance cancers at diagnosis and higher mortality rates.
  • Clinical breast exams are recommended for all women at the age of 20 and at least every 3 years until the age of 40, and then every year after that.
  • Women under the age of 40 with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors should talk to their doctor about risk assessment, when to start getting mammograms and how often to have them.
  • Women who are diagnosed at a younger age are more likely to have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
  • If a woman carries a defective BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, she has a greater risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. With these genes, she has a 30 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • It is important for younger women to become familiar with how their breasts look and feel through monthly breast self-exams (BSE), beginning at age 20. The best time to perform BSE is just as your period ends.