When you think of breast cancer, you don't usually associate it with women in their 20's and 30's. But new research shows the disease is affecting more younger people.
At just 23 years old and with no history of the disease in her family, Latanza Jackson was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a time she says she will never forget.
"I was actually just taking a stroll at the park and got home and got ready to take a shower and felt a small lump," she explains. "I was shocked. We thought it was just a cyst."
According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, advanced stage breast cancer is hitting more women between the ages of 25 and 39, ages that had previously not been a target for the illness. The journal states that when the cancer is caught, it has usually already spread to other organs and tends to be more deadly.
"It's showing that women in their 20's and 30's get breast cancer," says Joy Blondheim of the Joy to Life Foundation. "It's a more extreme case. It's almost, many times it's metastatic already."
Although some experts aren't yet advising women under 35 to get mamograms, Blondheim, a cancer survivor herself, says you can never be too young when it comes to screening for the disease.
"I urge young women to know their bodies and to learn how to do self exams so that you know if there's any changes in your breasts," she says. "I didn't do it. If I had done it, my breast cancer wouldn't have been as extreme as it was."
Physician Assistant Leia Thornton of Montgomery's All Med for Women agrees, saying it's better to be safe than sorry.
"There's kind of a misconception a little bit out there that you don't need screening until the age of 50, or maybe that insurance won't cover it until then," says Thornton. "That's kind of a misconception."
Thornton says although every insurance policy is different, many will cover the cost of screening if it can be justified.
"If we can provide the documentation, that's not an issue. It's warranted."
Experts aren't sure what caused a jump in the number of advanced breast cancer cases in younger women but say the best thing to do is to know you're body and get screened if you notice any changes.
The Walk of Life Breast Cancer 5k sponsored by the Joy to Life Foundation will be in Montgomery on April 20th. All proceeds stay in the state and go to benefit research.
For more information, you can go to www.walkoflife2013.org