Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can you get breast cancer at any age?"
Is breast cancer just something that happens as you get older or can you get it at any age? I'm only 21 and don't know when I should start getting checked with mammograms or whatever.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancers in women. Like nearly all types of cancer, breast cancer is more common in older women. Unfortunately, in rare cases, some young women get breast cancer before the usual age. Sometimes these cases of young women being diagnosed with breast cancer are associated with a specific gene that can be tested for. Other times, the cause is unknown. When you should begin getting screened depends on your family history. If you have a close relative (mother, sister, or grandmother) that developed breast cancer at a young age, you might consider getting screened at an earlier age with a breast MRI. This decision should be made by you and a qualified cancer geneticist. If you don't have that strong family history, then you will not start screening until a later age. Mammograms are really not that useful before the age of 40. Between now and then, you can get a yearly breast exam performed by your doctor. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can take a detailed family history and help you decide when you should start getting yearly mammograms. You are probably years away from that, but you can still get yearly exams.
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