To echo the women who generously share their stories in this edition – there’s never a good time to get breast cancer. Facing the challenges that breast cancer brings is never easy, no matter what age you are. Women of all ages face issues related to body image, relationship concerns and an uncertain future. We also know that a woman’s age often influences her breast cancer journey. For this issue of The Beacon we asked readers what it was like to be diagnosed at their age.
We know that younger women can face the challenge of being taken seriously at the diagnosis stage. A doctor may dismiss a young woman’s concerns regarding breast changes or lumps because she does not represent the typical breast cancer patient.
It’s worth noting that this is an experience shared by many men (of all ages). Like breast cancer in young women, male breast cancer is rare, so some doctors may not immediately suspect or investigate breast cancer in a man.
But how young is young?
The breast cancer world generally refers to premenopausal women as ‘young’, as the treatment options can be different according to menopausal status. This means that, once diagnosed, young women often face issues relating to early menopause.
How challenging it must be to have plans for motherhood thrown into chaos. How tough it must be for those who have to explain their diagnosis to young children. How difficult it must be without the financial fall back of a house or superannuation.
However, as the stories we share in this edition show, the challenges that may more often be linked to young women can be experienced by women of all ages.
This can include being single and facing dating after a diagnosis, reviewing or changing careers, and changes to sexual wellbeing.
In Australia, the average age of the first diagnosis of breast cancer in women is 61. This may be surprising to the general public, as many media stories cover the experiences of young women, such as Kylie Minogue. Perhaps due to such media coverage, many people think that there has been an increase in the number of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. However, over the past few decades the rate in Australia has stayed relatively stable.
Apart from being female, the main factor that influences breast cancer risk is getting older. It’s no surprise then that 78 per cent of new cases of breast cancer in women are diagnosed over the age of 50.
As readers of The Beacon will know, BCNA is celebrating 20 years in 2018. One of the ways we will recognise our anniversary is with a new-look Beacon. We know how much this magazine has meant to its readers over the years, so we hope you will be pleased with the refreshed design. Some of our members have been part of the network since its beginning in 1998, and others will remember when we celebrated our 10th and 15th anniversaries.
We’d love to hear suggestions from any of our members and supporters about how we should mark 20 years of BCNA. email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.