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Originally published February 26, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Page modified February 27, 2013 at 7:11 PM

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Breast cancer: What younger women should know

Doctors advise knowing your risk factors and following up if you find a lump.

Seattle Times health reporter

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Advice from the Cleveland Clinic:

Younger women generally do not consider themselves to be at risk for breast cancer. Only 5 percent of all breast-cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and all women should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer.

There are several factors that put a woman at high risk for developing breast cancer, including:

• A personal history of breast cancer or high-risk lesion found by biopsy.

• A family history of breast cancer, particularly in a mother, daughter or sister.

• History of radiation therapy.

• Evidence of a specific genetic chance (BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation). Women who carry defects on either of these genes are at greater risk for developing breast cancer.

Should women under age 40 get mammograms?

In general, regular mammograms are not recommended for women under 40 , in part, because breast tissue tends to be more dense in young women, making mammograms less effective as a screening tool. In addition, most experts believe the low risk of developing breast cancer at a young age does not justify the low-level radiation exposure or the cost of mammography. However, screening mammograms may be recommended for younger women with a family history of breast cancer and other risk factors.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Top Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening, Treatment and Survivorship. A helpful feature from Redbook magazine, reprinted at WebMD, encourages young women who find a lump not to take no for an answer: “It’s common for a 28-year-old to show her doctor a lump, only to have him say, ‘You’re too young to have breast cancer,’” Lillie Shockney, administrative director of the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center, told Redbook.

Chat on Twitter: #bcsm, every Monday night at 6 p.m., moderated by patient advocates.

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