Too Young to Screen: Breast Cancer in Younger Women

Shedding light on how breast cancer affects younger women.

If you’re under age 40, which is when it’s recommended that women begin having screening mammograms, you may think you are too young to get breast cancer—but that’s not true. While breast cancer in younger women is rare, it is the most common cancer among women ages 15 to 39. And certain kinds of breast cancer are on the rise among young women.

“While breast cancer is most typically diagnosed in post-menopausal women, this is a condition that can and does happen in young women, too,” says Yale Medicine radiologist Liva Andrejeva-Wright, MD, who specializes in breast imaging. “I have diagnosed women in their 20s with breast cancers.”

Overall, about 11% of all breast cancers occur in women younger than 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 26,393 women under 45 are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. And every year, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer.