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Cancer fight yields lessons

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month

Charis Weis, a breast cancer survivor, and Melodi Johnson, nurse navigator at the Breast Health Center of Mid-Columbia Medical Center, show off a T-shirt designed by Weis and local artist Jim Semlor to raise public awareness about how early detection of cancer can save lives.

Photo by RaeLynn Ricarte
Charis Weis, a breast cancer survivor, and Melodi Johnson, nurse navigator at the Breast Health Center of Mid-Columbia Medical Center, show off a T-shirt designed by Weis and local artist Jim Semlor to raise public awareness about how early detection of cancer can save lives.



Breast cancer in young women is rare but can often be more aggressive, according to the Young Survival Coalition (YSC).

More than 250,000 women now living in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer under age 40. They have a higher mortality rate and are at greater risk of the cancer returning in areas beyond the breast.

Here are some statistics provided by YSC about how breast cancer is different in younger women:

• There is no effective screening tool for women under 40, most of whom have dense breast tissue that prevents routine mammograms from being effective.

• Every year, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer.

• Nearly 80 percent of young women diagnosed with breast cancer find a lump or abnormality themselves.

• Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, occurring once in every 3,000 pregnancies. An estimated 30 percent or more of all breast cancer in young women is diagnosed in the few years after a woman has had a baby.

• Compared to older women, young women generally face more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates. More and more evidence points to breast cancer before age 40 being biologically different from the cancer faced by older women.

Charis Weis was grappling with her mother’s breast cancer in October 2017 when she felt a lump in her left breast while showering...

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