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Oncologist. 2012;17(6):775-82. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0469. Epub 2012 May 3.

The effect of age on delay in diagnosis and stage of breast cancer.

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Young women with breast cancer are more likely to present with more advanced disease and are more likely to die as a result of breast cancer than their older counterparts. We sought to examine the relationship among young age (≤40 years), the likelihood of a delay in diagnosis, and stage.


We examined data from women with newly diagnosed stage I-IV breast cancer presenting to one of eight National Comprehensive Cancer Network centers in January 2000 to December 2007. Delay in diagnosis was defined as time from initial sign or symptom to breast cancer diagnosis >60 days.


Among 21,818 women with breast cancer eligible for analysis, 2,445 were aged ≤40 years at diagnosis. Young women were not more likely to have a delay in diagnosis >60 days (odds ratio [OR], 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.98-1.19) after adjustment for type of initial sign or symptom. Young women were only modestly more likely to present with higher stage disease after a similar adjustment (OR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.07-1.31). Women presenting with symptomatic disease, more common in younger women, were more likely to have a delay in diagnosis (OR, 3.31; 95% CI, 3.08-3.56) and higher stage (OR, 4.31; 95% CI 4.05-4.58).


Young age is not an independent predictor of delay in diagnosis of breast cancer and only modestly is associated with higher stage disease. Presenting with symptoms of breast cancer predicts delay and higher stage at diagnosis.

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