New study says more young women diagnosed with advanced breast c - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

New study says more young women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Local survivors not surprised.

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A word of warning for young women.  A New Study finds the number of women under 40 diagnosed with the most advanced stage of breast cancer is on the rise.  We spoke to a local oncologist for some insight on this new study.  First we should say the oncologist told us there is no reason to panic.  Instead he said we should look at these numbers as one more reason to undergo regular breast exams.

"I was 35 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said cancer survivor Kari Hazelbaker, "I was very shocked.  I always tell people it's a feeling you can't describe it's just a very scary time."

Lucky for Kari Hazelbaker her cancer was caught early.  It was the same scenario for breast cancer survivor Joanne Horak.  "The sooner they catch it the greater odds you have of becoming a survivor and I'm now a three year survivor."

But according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association there's an increase in the number of young women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  That means it's not in the early stages...it's already spread from the breasts to other parts of the body.

Hazelbaker said she's not surprised, "As soon as I found out I had cancer there were women I was put in touch with all over the U.S. that had breast cancer."  And Horak agrees, ""I'm not surprised I do know of quite a few woman who were under 40 when they were diagnosed."

So what's triggering this increase of aggressive cancer in young women?  Surgical Oncologist at IU Health Goshen, Leonard Henry, said more research will need to be done but he speculates it corresponds to an increase in obesity.  So what should you do to lessen your chances of being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?  "Women who are seeing their doctor should encourage their doctor to do breast exams as part of annual physical.  Women should have a general awareness of their own breasts," said Henry.

Dr. Henry says there are a lot of risk factors that are beyond your control, like genetics.  But there are some things you can control.  "Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, watching their body weight, make sure they have an active lifestyle," said Henry.

Now you may be asking if the increase in diagnoses is simply due to better technology and screening.  Dr. Henry said the study doesn't seem to indicate that so there's probably another trend causing this. 

And there's also no need for women in their 20's to rush out and get mammograms because of this study.  You should consult your own doctor for the best advice but Dr. Henry said for women under 40 self breast exams and having your doctor check you out during annual physicals is the best way to go.  Dr. Henry said mammograms actually aren't the best screening tool for young women because the breast tissue is too dense during the younger years.

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