Young Women Are Dying of Breast Cancer. They MUST Be Screened Too; Good Health VIEWPOINT

Daily Mail (London), May 25, 2010 | Go to article overview

Young Women Are Dying of Breast Cancer. They MUST Be Screened Too; Good Health VIEWPOINT


Byline: Dr Nick Perry Interview: RACHEL ELLIS

HAVING to tell a young woman that she has extensive breast cancer is one of the most upsetting aspects of my work. often these women have previously been told not to worry about the lump in their breast because they are 'too young to get breast cancer'.

In many cases, their chances of survival have been further reduced by earlier advice that they were 'too young' for a mammogram.

It's harrowing dealing with these women -- many with young children -- because, with screening, some of these cases could have been picked up earlier, the women treated successfully and their lives saved.

The figures are stark: breast cancer is the most common cause of death in women aged 35 to 54, and the incidence is rising.

About a quarter of the 46,000 new cases each year are diagnosed before the menopause. At my clinic, a staggering 40 per cent of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women under 50. other private specialist breast centres report similar figures.

This high prevalence rate among young women may reflect the lack of routine screening for younger women in the nHS.

nHS breast screening is offered only to women between the ages of 50 and 70. If you are under that age, the only ways you can have a screening mammogram -- unless you have a lump and have been referred by your GP -- is to pay for it privately or get it as part of a corporate screening programme.

The whole point about screening is to pick up lumps and abnormalities at an earlier stage. Cancers caught early are more likely to respond to treatment and less likely to need extensive surgery, giving women a better chance of recovery.

Evidence clearly shows that women who have breast cancer detected through screening (rather than presenting with symptoms) have significantly better survival rates from the disease, even with the better treatment options that are now available.

It used to be said that screening would pick up only a tiny proportion of breast cancers. In fact, 35 per cent of all breast cancers are found thanks to the national screening programme.

WOMEN under 50 have just as much right to the early detection of breast cancer through screening as older women. one could argue that it is all the more important for younger women to be screened, as they have a higher proportion of aggressive cancers and, therefore, most to gain from early detection.

Research shows that 40 per cent of all years of life lost to breast cancer are from women diagnosed between the ages of 35 to 49. So could Britain's survival rate from breast cancer be improved if screening was introduced for younger women? In the U.S., where annual breast screening is routinely recommended to women once they reach 40, according to recent research, 90.5 per cent of women survive at least five years following a diagnosis of breast cancer. This compares with 78.5 per cent in Britain.

Eight European countries offer breast screening programmes starting at 40 or 45. …

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