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Doctors may overlook breast cancer risk in younger women

Thanks to pink ribbon advocacy and media calls for monthly self examinations, many Americans are aware of the risk that breast cancer creates for women. In fact, many people also understand that men can wind up diagnosed with breast cancer through a variety of circumstances. That awareness means that people seek care and treatment at higher rates.

Awareness, along with better treatment options, has improved survival odds for the women diagnosed with this cancer. However, many people still consider breast cancer to be an issue that faces women after they pass standard childbearing age. The truth is that women in their 20s and 30s can also develop aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Sadly, doctors may not always respond proactively to patients reporting symptoms that directly correlate to breast cancer if they are below a certain age. The delay in diagnosis that results could wind up claiming the lives of young women.

Even if a woman does secure a diagnosis and treatment, she will likely incur more expense because of the delay and have to undergo more radical and aggressive therapies that could impact her life (and fertility) for longer in the future.

Imaging tests are not always reliable for young women

One of the go-to tests for diagnosing problematic areas in breast tissue that could be cancerous is the mammogram. This imaging test helps doctors get a view of what is going on inside a patient's breast tissue. It can help them isolate lumps and locate areas of concern for surgical removal or biopsy.

Unfortunately, many doctors rely too much on mammograms for breast cancer patients. Mammograms are not 100% effective at detecting anomalies in dense or fibrous breast tissue. That is one reason why insurance companies used to only cover mammograms in women over the age of 40.

The test works very well on breast tissue that has had a chance to age, but the denser, firmer breast tissue of young women may not provide the results that are necessary for an accurate diagnosis. If a doctor doesn't do follow-up testing, the mammogram alone may not be sufficient to ensure a diagnosis.

Some doctors just don't take women's complaints seriously

There is an unfortunate trend among health care professionals to question the pain reported by female patients more often then pain reported by male patients. That same bias could lead a doctor to assume that a female patient is exaggerating her symptoms.

If a doctor didn't listen to you, didn't order appropriate testing or didn't diagnose you quickly when you sought help with what turned out to be breast cancer, you may have the right to hold that doctor accountable for the damage their inaction caused you. A failure to diagnose medical malpractice claim could be the remedy you need, at least from a psychological and financial perspective.

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