Are more younger women getting diagnosed with breast cancer?

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:18:57 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 14 2013 11:09:57 PM CST
Mammogram

Nearly 300,000 American women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer, but are we seeing more cases in younger women?

Nikki Pfeifer of La Crosse always pictured family as most important.

“My 2-year-old doesn't really know what's going on,” she said. “He knows mommy has owies, but that's about it. My 8-year-old stepson is a humongous help.”

At 29, she thought she still had a lot of life to live.

“It was not a thought in my mind that I had cancer,” Pfeifer said. “No way, there's no chance. It's not hereditary.”

But a couple of months ago, things changed.

“I went in to go get imaging done Sept. 9, and Sept. 10 they gave me the call at work and told me they found cancer.”

Doctors said she had stage 2 breast cancer.

They also told her she wasn't the only person under 30 to be diagnosed this year.

“I was either the sixth or the eighth person this year to Gundersen,” said Pfeifer.

“There's been a little bit of a cluster recently, but the overall numbers for the year don't look like they're going to change significantly,” said Dr. Roger Kwong, oncologist at Gundersen Health System.

Kwong said on average, seven women under the age of 30 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

While that may be a small number, he said those women could be in for a tougher fight.

“They may have more aggressive tumors and one modality of hormone treatment that is not available to them,” said Kwong.

With her family by her side, Pfeifer decided to have a double mastectomy. It was a decision she made to put her loved ones first.

“I don't want to do a double mastectomy, I don't want to do chemotherapy, I don't want to do any of that, but at the same time, I don't want it to come back,” said Pfeifer. “I want to be there for as long as possible for my kids and my family.”

She still has a ways to go in her recovery, but urges all women to be aware of the risk for breast cancer.

“If you feel something suspicious or feel anything, no matter what it is, get it checked out for sure, because obviously, age doesn't matter,” said Pfeifer.

Pfeifer is starting four months of chemotherapy treatments next week. She also plans to have reconstructive surgery.

Doctors urge people who notice a difference or a change in their body, to get it checked out immediately.