30 is the new 50 in breast cancer, say doctors

30 is the new 50 in breast cancer, say doctors

Young and suffering

A girl aged 18 found a lump in her right breast and her family said it would be fine with age and over time.

However, just to clear their doubts, they visited the family doctor, who also assured that age is on her side and there is not much to worry. The doctor did not ask her to undergo a mammography.

But the family's relief did not last long. Weeks later, the breast swelled and caused terrible discomfort to the girl. She consulted an oncologist and a biopsy report confirmed it was cancer.

"That isn't the age when you suspect cancer. She was just out of school and entered college," said Dr Poonam Patil, head of the department, oncology, Manipal Hospital. She said the girl — who had reached the advance stage pretty early — was operated upon after several sessions of chemotherapy.

Though she said it was a 'one-off' case, Dr Poonam said incidents of breast cancer are on the rise among younger women. "Earlier, women had breast cancer in their late 40s or 50s, but now it is seen in those in their 30s as well," she said.

There may not be concrete reasons for young women reporting breast cancer, but Dr Poonam believes lifestyle changes, obesity, lack of physical activities and fast food are contributing to the trend.

Dr C Ramachandra, director, Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, said rising breast cancer among young women has larger social implications.

"A 19-year-old patient came to us. She was engaged when she was diagnosed with cancer in one breast. Months later, she walked in again with her fiancé to get the other breast operated. The boy was sensitive and didn’t call off the marriage," said Dr Ramachandra.

He attributes the trend — more prevalent in urban areas — to hormonal imbalances. "Late marriages, late conception, early menarche and menopause are also contributing factors,” Dr Ramachandra said, adding that increasing estrogen levels during fertility treatment also put women at risk.

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