Breast Cancer in Young Women

February 25, 2021 – 3 min read

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Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women

During young adulthood, it is easy to feel invincible. However, women of all ages are at risk for breast cancer. If you have risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer, it’s important to get screened early and often.

While most breast cancers are found in women ages 50 and older, between 6% to 7% of women in the United States who are diagnosed with breast cancer are younger than 40, with even higher numbers reported for African American women.

An Accelerated Breast MRI, also known as abbreviated breast MRI, is a comfortable, minimally invasive and highly detailed imaging option that does not require a referral, making it a great breast screening option for women under 40.

How Young Can You Get Breast Cancer?

Although it is rare to develop breast cancer in your teens, 20s and 30s, thousands of young women are diagnosed annually. Since physicians typically recommend women begin yearly mammograms after the age of 40, being aware of your risk throughout young adulthood can help you identify any red flags.

Women under 40 are more likely to have dense breast tissue, which can make it more difficult to detect tumors. Often, young women who are eventually diagnosed with breast cancer first detect it at home after identifying changes in their breasts, such as discharge, a mass or lump, or pain, but diagnostic testing is needed to confirm the presence of cancer. An accelerated Breast MRI is an ideal breast screening option for younger women with dense breasts or other risk factors.

Know Your Risk Factors

Your likelihood of developing breast cancer at a young age can increase based on a variety of factors. Some you are born with and some are linked to lifestyle. Risk factors that you cannot control may include:

  • Having a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, specifically having a first-degree relative with breast or ovarian cancer
  • Genetic mutations, such as inherited changes to genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • If your mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES) while she was pregnant with you
  • Having a personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous diseases of the breast, such as atypical hyperplasia
  • Getting radiation therapy to the breasts or chest before the age of 30
  • Reproductive history, such as starting your periods earlier than 12

Controllable risk factors that can increase your risk of breast cancer under 40 include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Getting pregnant for the first time after the age of 30
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Not breastfeeding your baby
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Taking certain birth control pills

If you believe you may be at risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about your options.

Why Accelerated Breast MRI?

An Accelerated Breast MRI screening takes about 12 to 18 minutes and can be available for around $450, a lower cost than a traditional breast MRI. During the exam, you simply lie on your stomach on top of a padded scanning table, with your breasts in a cushioned opening. Since you do not need a referral to have this test, it is easy to request an appointment and maintain these screenings along with annual mammograms later in life.

An Accelerated Breast MRI is available at our American Health Imaging locations in Decatur, Lawrenceville and Sandy Springs.

Is an Accelerated Breast MRI right for you and your risk for breast cancer? Find out by taking this quiz.