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Young Dallas Woman Battles Breast Cancer, Hopes to Raise Awareness
02/26/2013

DALLAS, Texas — Life as she knew it changed for Deanna Stearn when she was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer a year ago — at age 28.

Deanna Stearn, pictured with her children, said regular check-ups are important for women of all ages
Deanna Stearn, pictured with her children, said regular check-ups are important for women of all ages.

Today, the 29-year-old is cancer free and sharing a message of awareness for young women to continue breast self-exams, listen to their bodies and see a doctor if they find anything out of the ordinary.

“I want people to hear my story and understand that this disease can strike a woman at any age,” she said.

While Stearn is cancer free today, she is part of what some doctors are calling a troubling trend. According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of young women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer like Stearn has been steadily increasing over the last three decades.

Beginning in 1976, the rate of diagnosis in 25- to 39-year-old women rose from 1.53 per 100,000 to 2.90 per 100,000 in 2009.

“The risk of breast cancer in women under 40 is small, but we have seen an increase in younger women diagnosed with distant disease, meaning the cancer has already spread to other organs,” said Dr. Archana Ganaraj, breast cancer surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and Stearn’s physician. “Younger women tend to have a more aggressive form of breast cancer and therefore lower survival rates.”

If the disease is caught early, younger women have an 80 percent survival rate, according to the JAMA paper. Survival rate drops to 31 percent if the disease has spread.

“One month after finding a lump in my breast, I decided to see my doctor and it had already doubled in size,” Stearn said. “I’m blessed that I have an amazing support system of friends and loved ones who encouraged me to seek treatment because had I waited I know the outcome would have been much different.”

Dr. Archana Ganaraj, breast cancer surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas, was Stearn’s physician
Dr. Archana Ganaraj, breast cancer surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas, was Stearn’s physician.
Click photo to download hi-res image

“Unfortunately, we don’t know why younger women have a more advanced form of this disease,” Ganaraj said. “Since women under the age of 40 are not routinely screened for breast cancer, it’s important to listen to your body, get regular check-ups and bring any concerns to your physician.”

The research was led by scientists at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington in Seattle. The researchers examined breast cancer incidence, incidence trends, and survival rates as a function of age and extent of disease at diagnosis. The data was gathered from three U.S. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries. These registries provide data spanning 1973-2009, 1992-2009, and 2000-2009.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 898-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas.

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