Breast Cancer in Young Women

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Breast cancer patient Charisma McDuffie.

Charisma McDuffie, diagnosed at age 28, says she was “truly blessed” to have chosen MSK and its program tailored specially for young women with breast cancer.

Sarah Sanders

Sarah Sanders, diagnosed at age 34 with triple-negative breast cancer, says, “I knew within 15 seconds of speaking with my oncologist that MSK was the place for me.”

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman, you face many special challenges. In addition to the stress of dealing with this disease at an early age, you may be worried about how treatment will affect your ability to have or raise children, finish schooling, or manage your career. MSK’s Young Women with Breast Cancer program is tailored to women age 45 and younger. Our mission is to provide comprehensive care, support, education, and research for young women diagnosed with this disease. We are particularly focused on long-term health and quality of life.  

MSK is a world-renowned cancer center that is accessible to our local community and beyond. Each year, thousands of young women with breast cancer come to MSK for treatment. Our team of specialists will work with you to develop the best evidence-based treatment plan, as well as help you manage all aspects of your physical and emotional needs.

The mindfulness, kindness, and genuine care my team continues to show me every day is endlessly and overwhelmingly comforting. They treat you as a person, not as a cancer patient, and I'm honored and humbled to say they are my family. I don't know what I'd do without them.
Sarah Sanders diagnosed at age 34

A Note from the Program Directors

Mary L. Gemignani and Shari Goldfarb

Shari Goldfarb and Mary L. Gemignani

We realize there is a clear need to improve the health and quality of life for young women with breast cancer.  We will provide a roadmap guiding you through every challenge every step of the way. 

Our team of specialists has expertise in all types of breast cancer therapy, and MSK is a leader in clinical trials and cooperative group studies. As our patient, you will have access to cutting-edge research that will potentially improve outcomes for you and other young women in the future.

We have devoted our lives to helping people with breast cancer. We understand you are much more than your diagnosis and want to feel vibrant and strong again. We are here for you.  

Mary L. Gemignani, MD
Surgeon

Shari Goldfarb, MD
Medical Oncologist

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Call 646-497-9064
Available 7 days a week, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm, ET

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How We Support Younger Patients with Breast Cancer

 
Screening and Diagnosis

We can help young women check for any early signs of breast cancer with screening mammograms. This is especially important if you have dense breasts, which may increase breast cancer risk.

Understanding Family History

Women who develop breast cancer at a young age may have inherited a genetic mutation that increases their risk for the disease. Genetic testing and counseling can help you identify whether you have a mutation, how this can guide your treatment, and what it means for your family members.

Preserving Fertility

A cancer diagnosis does not mean you can’t get pregnant. Our Cancer and Fertility Program, run by our fertility nurse specialists, will work closely with you to help you preserve your fertility before, during, and after treatment if you want to start a family or have more children in the future. We will guide you through various fertility preservation options whether you are newly diagnosed or have completed cancer treatment.

MSK walked me though every step of the egg-freezing cycle in great detail before I even got to a fertility specialist. They made sure I understood every detail for every process of my treatment.
Charisma McDuffie diagnosed at age 28
Sexual Heath and Intimacy

Cancer treatment can affect your sexual health and interest in sexual activity. Our experts — doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, and psychologists — provide personalized care to address your concerns. Our dedicated Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program can help  with physical symptoms and emotional challenges that may affect your sex life.

In addition, this MSK podcast episode, A Woman’s Guide to Sex and Cancer, includes an honest and frank conversation about the impact of treatment on a woman’s physical and emotional sexual health.

Body Image

Breast cancer and its treatment can impact your feelings about your body. Our surgical specialists are experts in breast surgery and all types of breast reconstruction. We also provide emotional support to ease any feelings of anxiety, stress, or sense of loss related to breast surgery.

Coping with Side Effects

Our specialists have great skill in helping women manage side effects of treatment, including lymph node biopsy and adjuvant therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation.  For people receiving chemotherapy, we offer scalp cooling to reduce hair loss and methods for managing nausea. Our experts also can use advanced tests to help determine whether you actually need chemotherapy.

Integrative Medicine

Our Integrative Medicine Service provides an array of complementary therapies that address chronic issues such as pain, neuropathy, fatigue and insomnia, stress, anxiety, mobility, and more. This includes complementary medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, massage, Reiki, exercise and yoga classes.

Nutrition and Eating Well

Our food and nutrition team can help you maintain a healthy diet during breast cancer treatment, as well as eating in a way that reduces your risk for the disease. They will help you understand and cope with nutritional challenges related to cancer treatment, including managing possible digestion problems and changes in taste.

Rehabilitation and Staying Active

Our Rehabilitation Medicine team guides you in recovering from the effects of treatment, including helping you regain mobility after surgery and managing treatment-related lymphedema. In addition, research shows that exercise can help with recovery from breast cancer and minimize the long-term effects of some treatments. MSK has done pioneering research on the benefits of staying active after diagnosis.

Counseling, Support Services and Resources

A breast cancer diagnosis is a physically and emotionally challenging time. We have many services dedicated to helping you through your journey. Our experts can provide counseling and support to help you and your family manage anxiety and other emotional difficulties of breast cancer and its treatment. We offer support groups and programs – both in person and virtual – that you can join to meet other women going through a similar experience or to provide guidance to others. Our Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program connects you and your caregivers one-on-one with people who’ve been through a similar breast cancer diagnosis.   

Social workers are an integral part of our care team and can provide you with information about how to speak about your diagnosis with family members (e.g., children, parents), work colleagues, and friends. You can have an individual consultation to address your needs, which can either be one time or ongoing. Our social workers can also help address your financial concerns.

Mikaela’s Story: Facing Breast Cancer as a Woman in Her 20s
Former college lacrosse player Mikaela Rix, diagnosed at age 26, accessed a wide range of resources offered by MSK’s new program tailored for young women with breast cancer.

The Latest Research

 
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Studies & Publications

Advisory Committee

The MSK Young Women with Breast Cancer program is privileged to have a multidisciplinary advisory committee of specialists.  

Donate to MSK’s Young Women with Breast Cancer program.

Your generosity will advance MSK’s efforts to improve the long-term health and quality of life for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

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