General Surgeon at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland, Dr. Lincoln Cox, says there is an increasing number of younger women who are being diagnosed with breast cancer, which tends to be more aggressive.
Dr. Cox, who was addressing the MistyBlue Cancer Care Foundation’s teleconference on Wednesday (October 14), said the rise in breast cancer rates in younger women is worrying, and he is urging women under age 50 who detect a lump in their breasts to have it checked immediately.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally and the leading cause of cancer deaths, including in Jamaica.
He pointed out that a Cancer Epidemiology study by a task force from the University Hospital of the West Indies in 1999, found that, on average, one third of women diagnosed with the disease were under 50 years old, a trend which remains the same to date.
“We are seeing a distribution of 12.6 per cent [in the] 30 to 39 age group, 18.7 per cent in the 40-49 age group, so if we add these up…one third of all the [breast] cancer that we see in Jamaica is in patients who are young,” Dr. Cox further informed.
Citing personal statistics, Dr. Cox pointed out that in Westmoreland, there’s a one-to-one ratio between women under 50 compared to older women being diagnosed with cancer since the start of the year.
Dr. Cox is calling for greater vigilance among young women, as far too many are being diagnosed with breast cancer when the disease is at an advanced stage, which would reduce the chance of successful treatment and recovery.
He said the tumour tends to be more aggressive in women under age 50, meaning “that it will spread faster and your survival time is shorter”.
“Now what is happening with these younger patients, they tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and that is one of the problems that we have, because they are driven by fear and they stay away,” he said.
The General Surgeon pointed out that the younger females tend to be ill-advised by older adults regarding cancer treatment, which is also a cause for concern.
He said another challenge for younger patients is “that there is no effective cancer screening tool”, as their breast tissue is more dense, making it difficult to read the results of mammography tests used to spot cancers.
The teleconference was held in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is being observed in October.
The Westmoreland-based MistyBlue Cancer Care Foundation is spearheading several online conferences up to December, to highlight statistics and trends relating to cancers.