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Breast cancer striking younger women

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

On the last day of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the call to action against the deadly disease is coming from an unlikely group: high school cheerleaders for Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in southwest Houston.

Like most of us, these teenagers know of someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. And while their message, complete with pink jerseys and pom poms, is in memory of those who lost the battle it's also a reminder for classmates and older sisters. If you suspect something is not right with your body, get it checked out.

"My perception is the patients are younger and younger," says Dr. Darlene Miltenburg, the Medical Director of Texas Women's Comprehensive Breast Center.

The Woman's Hospital of Texas funded the special Strake Jesuit cheerleader uniforms and provided the ladies with information to deliver to fans.

"Patients would be in their 60's when I started, now it is not unusual to see a woman who is 30 or 40 years old and the tumors are more aggressive in young women than older women, " Dr. Miltenburg says.

The issue is so significant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has convened an advisory committee to learn more about breast health and breast cancer among women, particularly those under the age of 40.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services monitors women as young as 15 for breast cancer.

Currently, Dr. Miltenburg is treating a 24-year-old woman.

"The significant factor is that these women are usually mothers, and they usually have young children. It impacts an entire family, a whole generation. And some of these women die, leaving grade school children behind. I have ladies who are single mothers. One woman was 34 with five year old twin boys, and who is going to take care of those children?"

Cancer treatments can also impact a young woman's ability to become a mother in the future.

"We still want to catch people early, but just because we catch something when it is small doesn't mean that it can't take your life. Small cancers that are biologically aggressive are hard to treat. If you feel a mass on your breast, don't ignore it because you are young. Be aware of your breasts, if you feel something, don't ignore it."

It's advice to live by, from a doctor familiar with treating women who are still years away from receiving their first mammogram.

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