Younger women with breast cancer face unique medical and psychosocial challenges, including:
- premature menopause
- fertility and sexuality issues
- role functions that may be threatened, including partnering, caring for young children, education and career
- over-representation of those with germline genetic mutations.
While these challenges may also be experienced by all women with breast cancer, concern about these issues may contribute to younger women experiencing higher levels of psychosocial distress following diagnosis.
As a health professional caring for a younger woman with breast cancer, it is essential to be aware of the unique challenges facing the younger woman and how they can best be addressed.
While breast cancer is less common in younger women, it is important to consider the possibility that a breast symptom in a younger woman may be breast cancer and to investigate symptoms appropriately.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
It is important to consider breast cancer as a possibility for a younger woman who presents with a breast symptom and investigate according to evidence-based best practice. The most likely scenario is that a woman will present with a new breast symptom, such as a lump, thickening or other change, that has not resolved after menstruation. In this case the triple test should be applied.
The triple test is a systematic, evidence-based approach used to assess any patient presenting to their GP with a new breast symptom. It is the recommended approach to maximise diagnostic accuracy in the investigation of breast changes.
The triple test is more accurate at detecting breast cancer than any of the individual components. When performed appropriately, the triple test will detect over 99.6% of breast cancers.
Cancer Australia guides and resources:
- Investigation of a new breast symptom - a guide for general practitioners
This guide indicates steps to be taken in investigating symptoms that could be breast cancer and provides information about the triple test approach to diagnosis. It also provides guidance by age on referral for diagnostic imaging.
- Guidance for the management of early breast cancer
This website contains a set of recommendations and practice points for the management and care of patients with early breast cancer, developed through a meta-guideline process. It provides the option to filter information specifically relevant to premenopausal women or pregnant women.
Clinical practice guidelines for the management of breast cancer in younger women:
- ESO-ESMO 4th international consensus guidelines for breast cancer in young women (BCY4
- The European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists recommendations for the management of young women with breast cancer.
- Cancer, pregnancy and fertility: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.
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