A Study Published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) dated February 27, 2013 shows some alarming statistics among women ages 25 through 39.
Data analyzed between the years of 1976 and 2009, shows that the incidence of advanced/aggressive breast cancer increased in these young women (ages 25-39). This increase was NOT seen in older women. In this study, advanced or aggressive breast cancer refers to breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body, thus significantly decreasing the chance of cure.
How much was this increase in these young women? The incidence of advanced breast cancer in 1976 was 1.53 per 100,000 women (ages 25-39). The incidence of advanced cancer in 2009 was 2.90 per 100,000 women (ages 25-39). This is almost a two-fold increase!
There are many opinions as to why the incidence of aggressive breast cancer is increasing in young women. However, the detection of such breast cancer is of paramount importance. The current use of mammograms to detect breast cancer in young women, especially since younger women tend to have dense breast tissue, is often inadequate. Ultrasound is a little better. However, the only imaging exam that can routinely detect breast cancer in younger women and in women with dense breast is breast MRI.
Screening for breast cancer most often begins at age 40. However, in women with significant risk factors for the development of breast caner, screening often needs to begin before the age of 40. While annual mammograms continue to play an important component of the yearly screening process for breast cancer, an equal amount of attention should be given to breast MRI.
Breast MRI is more sensitive than mammography for the detection of breast cancer and it involves no radiation or compression. Breast MRI is of course more expensive than mammography, but I believe our wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and women friends are deserving of this life-saving technology.