When school administrator Vanessa Silva was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 32-years-old..... she underwent a bilateral mastectomy follow by powerful chemotherapy
"I did not do well with it, it just felt like I was hit by a truck."
Her treatment was aggressive because the disease is more aggressive in younger women than it is in older patients. And now researchers at Duke University know why after analyzing tumors from
both age groups.
"Tumors in young women had specific genetic components that made them more aggressive," says Dr. Kimberly Blackwell from Duke University's Medical Center.
And scientists were shocked to find how common these genetic components were in younger women.
"If breast cancers arising in younger women are all linked together by certain genetic elements it hints that there are probably very specific causes that lead to the development of breast cancer in younger women,." Blackwell says.
This research may not only help scientists discover different causes of breast cancer in young women. It may also lead to a new line of treatments. The aggressive tumors in younger women are harder to treat and new drugs that better target them would be a welcome weapon.
"We can really use those therapies to treat the cancers and we'll get much better responses than this sort of shot gun therapy that we're using now," says Dr. Alison Estabrook from St. Luke's-Roosevelt.
While Vanessa 's treatment was difficult, it did work.
"I do not have cancer," Vanessa says.
But she hopes future discoveries will spare future patients from making the decisions she had to make.