Women in their 20s and 30s with breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease than older women in Australia, revealed a new report.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Breast Cancer in Young Women report shows that more than two breast cancers are diagnosed every day among women aged 20 to 39, and at least one young woman dies every week from the disease.
About 5 % of young women account for new breast cancer cases in Australia in 2015 and 2.1% of breast cancer deaths. This year, an estimated 795 young women will be diagnosed, and 65 will die.
Breast cancer is still relatively rare among young women, but the report shows those diagnosed have a lower survival rate than women over 40. The five-year relative survival rate for women aged 20 to 29 is 86%, compared with 90% for women over 40.
Justin Harvey said there tended to be a higher proportion of very large breast cancers in young women than older women, associated with a lower survival rate. But even with small breast cancers, women aged 20 to 39 had a survival rate of 93%, compared with 99% for older women.
The reason for the poorer survival rate is unclear, but is likely to be related to differences in cancer characteristics, such as larger cancers and higher grades.
All survivors often face emotional, physical and financial challenges as a result of their illness, but in the long term young women tend to be more at risk of physical and psychosocial distress.
"These young women are at a life stage in which they are building careers, establishing relationships and planning for a family," said Helen Zorbas chief executive, Cancer Australia.
The report said young victims of the disease feel "too young" to have cancer, have higher levels of fear that the cancer could return than older women and are afraid of loss of fertility and early menopause as a result of treatment.
The financial implications are also greater, because they are more likely to be at the start or middle of their careers, and may find it difficult to re-enter the workforce after treatment.