Florida Today recently honored Heather Copley and her journey with breast cancer. Heather Copley, at just 25 was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was the youngest breast cancer patient that Dr. Emran Imami had treated at TEPAS Breast Center in Melbourne. Mid-treatment Heather had gotten married and later had a child. Unfortunately, the story did not end happily. “Sadly, as is often the case with young cancer victims, she had aggressive disease,” said Imami. “I grew close to her family and was honored to meet her husband, son and extended family when she passed (in March).”

Breast cancer tends to affect women 50 or older but can affect young women. It was reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that eleven percent of all cases in the United States affect women under the age of 45. Approximately 70,000 men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States., according to the National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. Breast tissue is denser in younger women making it harder for mammograms to detect it. Younger women are often left detecting breast abnormalities themselves, usually when it is already at a later stage. Research shows that women with breast cancer under the age of 40 are more likely to have lower survival rates.

“Assuming the person is in good health and does not have Stage IV (metastic) cancer, then removing the cancer itself is paramount,” Imami said. “Younger women warrant more aggressive therapies, though not necessarily more aggressive surgery.” “There is a one to two percent chance of having two breast cancers simultaneously, which would justify a mastectomy,” Imani said. “We counsel women with genetic mutations such as BRACA (the Breast Cancer gene) of their double or triple future breast cancer risk and often recommend double mastectomies.”

Genetics is usually the reason for breast cancer in young women, because they haven’t been exposed to hormones or environmental factors as much. “Young women with breast cancer often have one or more family members with the same condition,” Imami said. Breast cancer remains rare in teen years and can be life-changing at any age, but for the younger women it is even more challenging.

Read the full article on Florida Today.