New Law Aims to Bolster Research on Breast Cancer in Young Women -BYLN- by Michelle Andrews the Washington Post

Article excerpt

Breast cancer is extremely rare in young women. But when it does happen, it can be serious, even deadly. A little-noticed section in the health care overhaul aims to raise awareness among young women and their doctors about the risk of breast cancer between the ages of 15 and 44.

The law directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create education campaigns that will focus on breast cancer and young women, and encourage healthful habits that promote prevention and early detection of the disease.

The law also provides grants to groups that support young women with breast cancer. And it directs the National Institutes of Health to develop new screening tests and other methods to prevent breast cancer in young women and improve early detection. The law provides $9 million annually between 2010 and 2014 for these efforts.

Only about 10 percent of the roughly 250,000 women who receive diagnoses of breast cancer in a given year are younger than 45, according to the American Cancer Society. Family history, ethnicity and genetics can all increase a womans risk.

When young women do get breast cancer, it tends to be more aggressive. The five-year survival rate for women given the diagnosis before age 40 is 83 percent, compared with 90 percent for other women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Advocates say younger womens lower survival rates also may be due in part to later diagnoses. With the likelihood of cancer remote, young women and their doctors sometimes take a wait-and-see approach when they discover a lump or other breast change.

When Robyn Haines found a lump under her arm last summer, she wasnt overly concerned, and she waited a few months before checking it out. The 28-year-old television newscaster eventually visited her gynecologist near her home in Cadillac, Mich., and her doctor said it was probably nothing but referred her for a mammogram and ultrasound, just to be safe. The results were inconclusive. The doctor then sent Haines to a general surgeon, who wasnt particularly concerned, either. But he said that if the lump was uncomfortable, he could remove it.

Haines decided to go ahead with that surgery and says she was "extremely shocked" to learn last October that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. …