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Approximately 10% of all yearly diagnosed breast cancer cases affect women that are less than 40 years old. A large number of women who have never thought of being affected by breast cancer face this diagnosis.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends screening mammography starting at age 40, but how do you know if you or your daughter might be part of the 10 percent that could be diagnosed before that age?

Know your family history

Studies show that even without a genetic mutation, patients with a strong family history of breast cancer are at a higher risk.

If your mother or grandmother was diagnosed younger than 50 years old, you may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer early as well. Also, women from Jewish and African American ancestry have a higher risk of developing breast cancer at an early age.

Know your breasts

Knowledge of how your individual breasts look and feel is very important. Small changes in the appearance can be a sign of a cancer. If you notice a change, you should speak with your doctor.

Don’t be afraid to see your physician

The moment you think there could be a problem, seek help. Finding breast cancer early increases the chance for a cure. It’s also important to remember a large portion of breast problems are benign and your doctor will be able to diagnose this.

Breast cancer affects women of all ages and can be treatable. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better chance for a cure. Being proactive with your breast health is your best defense. Other things you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and not drink alcohol excessively. Once you’ve reached age 40, an annual mammogram is recommended. Regardless of your age, don’t wait to take action with your health.

Diane Krutzler, MD, is a breast surgeon at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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