Breast Cancer Research Centre - WA

What is Young?

The world of breast cancer refers to premenopausal women as “young” because some treatment options can be different according to menopausal status.

Only 6% of breast cancer in Australia develop in women under the age of 40 (Statistics).

When breast cancer develops in younger woman it is often more unexpected.  Treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and endocrine therapy are often used.

Younger women mostly have different things to think about during and after their breast cancer treatments.  Younger women are more often concerned about:

  • How treatment will affect their fertility, and will I go through menopause?
  • Will I be able to work during treatment?
  • How will my treatment effect my children?
  • Will my prognosis be worse because I am young?

For young women who have not had a family or have not yet finished having a family, then fertility is a discussion needed before starting chemotherapy.  You can be referred to Fertility clinics in Perth to discuss Fertility-related choices. The Prevention of Early Menopause Study (POEMS) published in the New England Journal of Medicine which showed a significant benefit of ovarian preservation with the use of goserlin during chemotherapy which reduced the risk of early menopause and improving the possibility of fertility. Pregnancy after breast cancer is not necessarily unadvisable.  We have specialist Menopause clinics in Perth where women can meet a Specialist in this area to help with symptoms of Hot Flushes, lowered libido, and vaginal dryness. These symptoms are all normal menopausal symptoms.

Working during treatment is a very personal decision. Some time off will be needed to recover from surgery, however working during chemotherapy will depend on the side effects, such as fatigue, hair loss which can be managed by wigs, scarfs or the use of Cold cap during your chemotherapy session.  Nausea is minimised with the use a medication prescribed by your medical oncologist and sometimes your GP.

Young women having breast cancer treatment can have the extra challenge of having young children to care for, family and friend support should be utilised at this point.  How much you tell your children can be difficult and will depend on their ages, maturity and how much they can understand.

Remaining fit and well after breast cancer is important as it will reduce your risk of a recurrence while improving mental and physical wellbeing.

If you are a young woman struggling with a breast cancer diagnosis here are some good resources or services, you may want to look at:

This Article is written by Cath Griffiths, BCRC-WA Early Breast Care Nurse