Abstract: Breast cancer in young women is relatively rare compared to breast cancer occurring in older women. Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer also tend to have a more aggressive biology and consequently a poorer prognosis than older women. In addition, they face unique challenges such as diminished fertility from premature ovarian failure, extended survivorship periods and its attendant problems, and the psychosocial impact of diagnosis, while still raising families. It is therefore imperative to recognize the unique issues that younger women face, and plan management in a multidisciplinary fashion to optimize clinical outcomes. This paper discusses the challenges of breast cancer management for young women, as well as specific issues to consider in diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of such patients.
Keywords: breast cancer, young women, diagnosis, treatment
Early-onset breast cancer is relatively rare; however, it represents the commonest cause of cancer in women under age the of 40.1 In the US, approximately 33,000 women under the age of 45 years are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this age group.2 Compared to older women with breast cancer, younger women tend to have a more aggressive biology and a poorer prognosis (Table 1). Younger women with breast cancer also face unique challenges such as premature ovarian failure, psychosocial issues with ongoing careers, and raising young families, as well as extended survivorship periods and its attendant complications as summarized in Figure 1. It is therefore imperative to recognize the unique issues that younger women face and plan management in a multidisciplinary fashion to optimize clinical outcomes.