Background: Although several studies have examined breast carcinoma in young women aged < or = 35 years at diagnosis, there are only occasional cases reported in very young women aged < or = 25 years, and, to the authors' knowledge, no series are available. The presentation, tumor biology, behavior, and outcome of breast carcinoma in very young women are not known, and the rarity of breast malignancy within this age group could lead to diagnostic delays.
Methods: The tumor characteristics and survival of 15 women aged < or = 25 years at the time of diagnosis, have been reviewed and compared with women aged 26-35 years under the care of Guy's Hospital's Breast Unit during the same period of time. Where appropriate, the two groups were individually matched for tumor size (clinical measurement) and histologic grade.
Results: Fifteen cases were examined, with a median follow-up of 108 months and a median age of 24 years. The median duration of symptoms was 4 weeks, and the median tumor size was 20 mm. Two patients had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) only, while the other 13 patients had invasive carcinomas, none of which were Grade I. A mastectomy was performed on 8 out of 15 patients (53%). Axillary nodal metastases were present in 4 out of 12 patients (33%). Of the 13 cases of invasive disease, 9 out of 13 patients (69%) experienced recurrence and died of breast carcinoma. Median disease free survival for patients with invasive disease was 86 months. There was no difference in overall survival between the patients aged < or = 25 years and those aged 26-35, but taken together young women < or = 35 had a worse prognosis than women between 36 and 65, due to a higher incidence of high grade and estrogen receptor negative tumors.
Conclusions: The current study suggests that among young women with breast carcinoma there is no difference in prognosis between the very young and the young. Despite two thirds of patients being node negative, the high mortality rate indicates a need for an optimal selection of adjuvant therapy among these cases.
Copyright 2002 American Cancer Society. DOI 10.1002/cncr.10273