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Breast Cancer Screening for Young Women

Because routine mammograms don't begin until the age of 40, as a young woman your most critical screening tool is YOU! You need to know your breasts to evaluate changes from month to month. If you find something unusual, go to your doctor immediately. Do not allow it to go unexamined. If the abnormality has been present for more than one menstrual cycle, insist on a mammogram or other diagnostic test. You also need to know your risk and your options.

If breast cancer is prevalent in your family, talk to your doctor about increasing your surveillance and undergoing genetic testing. In general, women with a family history should get a baseline mammogram ten years before the earliest onset of breast cancer in their family or at the age of 35, whichever is earlier, according to the Young Survival Coalition. Also know that there are several diagnostic tools available to help obtain a more accurate image of young, dense breast tissue such as ultrasound, MRI, and PET scans.

Most importantly, do not allow anyone, even your doctor, convince you that you are too young for breast cancer. Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are prevalent in young women. Be your own advocate and insist your concern be taken seriously or get a second opinion!