DALLAS — A new study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday shows advanced breast cancer cases are up in women under 40.
Deanna Stearn was just 27 when she found a lump during a self exam.
“I found a small little mass in my breast,” Stearn said.
A biospy showed Stage III breast cancer. For the young wife and mother, it was a diagnosis no one expected.
“I was very shocked," Stearn said. "You don't look at things the same way any more once you get some news like that."
The JAMA study shows a small but significant jump in advanced breast cancer — up 4 percent in women under the age of 40.
Texas Health Dallas breast cancer specialists have observed this trend first-hand.
"I think many of us who practice breast cancer medicine in the community have noticed that we are seeing younger patients," said Dr. Archana Ganaraj of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
Doctors can't pinpoint a reason for the increase, but some believe inactive lifestyles, hormones, and better detection methods all play a role.
Deanna Stearn feels lucky to be here today with her family. ”You think you can't be that one in a million, but you could be... I was," she said.
Breast cancer in women under 40 is still rare, about one-half of one percent. Doctors say the potential threat does reinforce the importance of self-exams and annual checkups.