International conference spotlights breast cancer in young women

LatinaLista — According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in young women ages 15-54.

When we think of breast cancer, we think of it as a disease that attacks older women — women who, though they still have a lot to live for, are more than halfway through their lives.

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We don’t think of girls who have never been kissed or young women who have just finished college or women who are just starting their families, but while their stories are not as common as those of older women, they do exist.

The unfortunate part is because young women don’t think of breast cancer as something that hits women under 50 too many discover too late that they have it.

Who can forget the sad story of Soraya.

Raised in New Jersey, Soraya was born in the U.S. to a Colombian family. She proudly embraced her Hispanic roots, which helped to win her the love and devotion of her fans on four continents. With a perfect command of both Spanish and English, Soraya wrote and performed in both languages.

At the age of 31, and at the height of her career, she was tragically diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Soraya spent the rest of her life using her music, her voice and her formidable talent to raise awareness and educate women in underserved communities about the disease.

While younger women do get breast cancer, the impact of the disease, as well as the disease itself, is different on younger women than older ones.

Increasingly, evidence suggests that breast cancer before age 40 is biologically different from the majority of breast cancer that occurs in older women. Women younger than 25 may have a third type of biologically distinct breast cancer.

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the only international conference specifically organized to address the questions and needs of young survivors of breast cancer.

The 10th Annual International Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer will be held February 26-28, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.

One in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer is younger than 45 when diagnosed, yet their emotional and medical concerns are different than those of women over age 45, as is the impact of their diagnosis on family, friends, partners, colleagues and children. Fertility concerns and the possibility of treatment-induced early menopause are just two examples of the issues young women face.

The conference will have workshops ranging from risk reduction to diet, nutrition and exercise to sexuality and body image.

The main goal of the conference is to bring young women together in an environment that shows they are not alone in their battles, fears and hopes against breast cancer.

As one attendee of a past conference shared:

“I’ve been living in an almost constant state of panic after receiving a metastatic diagnosis a year and a half ago, but attending the conference has helped to alleviate my fear of dying every day that I am living. “

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