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Breast Cancer Health Center

Q&A: Breast Cancer in Young Women

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Q: Are symptoms of breast cancer in younger women the same as in older?

Yes, Lichtenfeld says. These may include a mass in the breast, unexplained pain, a change in the texture of the skin, redness, or inflammation.

Any changes in the nipple should be looked at, too, says Kruper, as well as an enlargement in one breast only. 

Q: What should a woman do if she notices any of these symptoms?

"Go see your doctor and expect the symptoms to be taken seriously," Kruper says.

Q: What can women under 40 do to lessen breast cancer risk?

"Maintain a healthy body weight and exercise regularly," Lichtenfeld says. "Follow a healthy diet, preferably more plant-based than meat-based."

He gives the advice to keep a healthy body weight, he says, despite a lack of evidence of a link between obesity in childhood or young adulthood and breast cancer. "On the other hand, in postmenopausal women, obesity is a risk factor increasing the risk of breast cancer," he says.

Exercise should be consistent, Kruper says. She tells her patients to get in 40 minutes, four to five times a week. It should be a good cardiovascular workout, she says -- ''not just Pilates or yoga."

Be aware of how much alcohol you drink, Lichtenfeld and Kruper agree. Alcohol raises breast cancer risk, experts agree, but much is not known about the link. Even small amounts of alcohol have been linked with a higher risk, Lichtenfeld says. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than one drink a day, he says.

"According to the research, the less you drink the better," Lichtenfeld says.

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