Study: Spike in number of advanced breast cancer cases in young women

SEATTLE -- The rate of advanced breast cancer in young women under age 40 is trending at a rapid rate.

That's the latest news from a Seattle doctor who is also a young breast cancer survivor.

Karen Kasonic is 38 and fighting stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic means it's already spread, often times in the bones, liver, brain or lungs.

"It is technically a death sentence," she said. "It's surprising how many of us there are."

This new study, which solely focused on metastatic breast cancers in women under age 40, shows the number of cases have more than tripled since the 1970s.

"It's a concerning trend, because we find that the biggest increases in the rate of metastatic breast cancer in the youngest women we studied -- 25 to 34 year old. And also we noted that the increase seems to accelerating over time," said Dr. Becky Johnson, an oncologist at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Johnson herself was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27.

Her study identified 250 cases each year of advanced breast cancer in the 1970s, but about 800 annual cases in more recent years.

"From a population standpoint, these are very low numbers. But from a research standpoint, this is a significant trend," she said.

And this is why Johnson says more research needs to be done to find the reasons.

"We've done a very good job at catching cancers early and women (are) surviving those. But once they have stage 4 cancer, we've done a terrible job at helping those women survive," she said.

Johnson's study was published in the Journal of the Medical Association.

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