PORTLAND, Oregon -- A recent report about breast cancer rates in young women has raised some fears and questions about mammograms.
A doctor at the Legacy Cancer Institute says there’s no reason to panic but it is time to think about prevention.
“We see 60 to 100 patients a year here under the age of 40. It is heartbreaking and often the cancer has spread before it’s detected,” said Dr. Angela Lewis-Traylor.
The latest numbers outlined in a study at Seattle Children’s Hospital show a three percent increase in the number of women under the age of 40 being diagnosed.
“It was a lump and it gradually got bigger and bigger, “ said Bethany Pomeroy of Gresham who was diagnosed at the age of 28.
Kirstie Rall of Southeast Portland faced the same diagnosis at the age of 33.
“I was terrified. It’s the fear of the unknown,” she said.
About 100 women under the age of 40 are treated each year for breast cancer at the Legacy Cancer Institute.
“They’re often times diagnosed late and I think that happens because physicians are not expecting younger women to have cancer,” explained Lewis-Traylor.
“Even going through this, I haven’t really met anyone my age,” Pomeroy said.
Lewis-Traylor doesn’t think mammograms should be given routinely to women under 40, but she does encourage self-exams.
“Get to know your breasts and you’ll be able to detect changes.”
Detecting those changes gave Bethany and Kirstie a future but they still have questions.
“Why is this happening to our bodies? What is at the root?” asked Kirstie.
“I may never know what caused the cancer. Maybe it was all the processed foods I ate," Bethany added.
Lewis-Traylor encourages women to think about environmental causes.
“You need to look at things like processed meats, household cleaners and hair products. There are things we use every day that contain carcinogens.”