Dr. Carlson on Treating Breast Cancer Patients Under 40

Grant W. Carlson, MD
Published Online: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Grant W. Carlson, MD, professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, chief, Division of Plastic Surgery, Emory University Hospital, discusses treating younger patients with breast cancer.

Carlson says patients who are younger than 40 years old make up 6-7% of all breast cancer patients in the United States. These patients tend to have more aggressive cancers and require systemic therapy and radiation therapy. Multivariate analysis shows that younger patients tend to do worse, Carlson says, because of the biology of the tumor.

Understanding tumor biology and the necessity for systemic and radiation therapy impacts local choices for a surgeon. Younger patients with breast cancer are unique with regard to psychological and social needs, marital status, desire to have children, and health, Carlson says. These patients are typically image conscious and will seek out breast reconstruction. Carlson says breast conservation is done in younger women but the aggressiveness of their disease often warrants a mastectomy.

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