TAMPA - Jennifer Closser is in for her second treatment of chemotherapy at Florida Cancer Specialists. She has stage-three breast cancer. "I actually found it putting on skin cream, and kind of went, well, that's not normal. Read up on it on the internet, waited a month, went in to see a doctor. I was told to go get a mammogram and ultrasound and surprise, surprise."
Surprise, because Jennifer is only 33 years old and has no family history of breast cancer.
A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed while the disease is still uncommon among women younger that 40, advanced cases are increasing in the younger age group - and experts are scratching their heads as to why.
Doctor Charles Cox is a breast surgeon with USF and Florida Hospital Tampa. "They bring up issues like alcohol, delaying of pregnancy. I don't think birth control pills are the big issues but the delay of pregnancy with birth control pills may be an issue."
But breast surgeon Doctor Charles Cox says he also thinks that both doctors and patients just don't think "breast cancer" when diagnosing women under 40. "There was a congressional hearing on that about it being under diagnosed in younger women, and what was going on to prove that. I think it's just awareness. You're doing a story on it. Talking about it is critical."
In the 27,000 cases of breast cancer Doctor Cox has treated since 1987, only 500 of those patients were under 30.
Here's what he wants younger women to know. "You're looking for the uncooked tapioca in the tapioca pudding, something that's hard, and something that's getting larger and getting harder. Those are the things you are looking for."
Overall, U.S. breast cancer rates have mostly fallen in more recent years, although there are signs they may have reached a plateau.