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Am J Surg. 2009 Oct;198(4):538-43. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2009.06.010.

Diagnosis of breast cancer in women age 40 and younger: delays in diagnosis result from underuse of genetic testing and breast imaging.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Yawkey 9A, 55 Fruit St., Boston, MA 02114, USA.



The impact of newer breast imaging technologies and genetic testing on the detection of breast cancer in women age 40 and younger remains unknown.


A records review identified 628 women age 40 and younger diagnosed with breast cancer from 1996 to 2008. Patient and tumor characteristics, means of diagnosis, imaging results, and genetic testing were examined.


Tumors were first detected by self-examination in 71%, with a median invasive tumor size of 2.0 cm. Imaging performed at or after diagnosis visualized most tumors; mammography visualized 86%, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) visualized 96%, and mammography plus MRI visualized more than 98% of tumors. For 81% of patients, the mammogram at diagnosis was their first mammogram. Although 50% had a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, few underwent genetic testing before their cancer diagnosis; 61 of 247 (25%) ultimately tested had a BRCA mutation.


Better use of genetic testing, mammography, and MRI could improve breast cancer detection in young women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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