By Hallie Levine Sklar
Young Women Who Get Breast Cancer Are More Likely to
Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 have slightly
poorer prognoses than older women: Their five-year survival rate is about 82
percent, compared with 85 percent among women ages 40 to 74, according to the
American Cancer Society (ACS). Why? "Younger women are more likely to have
more aggressive tumors," explains Lisa Carey, M.D., medical director of the
University of North Carolina...
"I do think cancer has more impact on emotions and emotional
relationships than other catastrophic diseases, because with cancer, death is
often the first thing people flash on. There's an immediate shock and emotional
impact that few other illnesses have," says Katherine Puckett, LCSW,
national director of Mind-Body Medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of
America in Chicago.
Moreover, Puckett says that the uncertainty of the disease itself enhances
that impact. "It's the not knowing aspect of breast cancer that
increases the emotionality in regard to all your relationships. It heightens
anxiety, but it heightens and changes everything in your life," says
But the changes, she says, don't have to be negative.
Indeed, for some women, breast cancer can be the catalyst that turns casual
friendships into deep and meaningful bonds, that brings couples closer, that
helps the family unit become stronger and more cohesive.
For others, however, it can be a lonely and isolating time -- a period of
life when people we counted on most seem to all but disappear.
So what is it that determines how breast cancer will affect you and the
people in your life? Experts say it’s often linked to a willingness to
let others share your burden, something that doesn't come easy for many
"Women are the caregivers. We are used to taking care of everyone else,
so it can be a huge emotional struggle to give up some of that control and let
people in. Even with illness, women still want to handle everything on their
own," says Gloria Nelson, LSCW, senior oncology social worker at the
Montefiore/Einstein Cancer Center in New York City.
Moreover, experts say, many women view asking for help as a sign of
weakness, so they won't allow even those who want to help to do so.