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Doctors urge regular mammograms as breast cancer becomes more common among adults in their 30s

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors say it's about more than just the color pink.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — October is Breast Cancer Cancer Awareness Month and while you may notice more of the color pink on social media, doctors say it's also a good time to schedule a mammogram. 

"Had it not been for my regular mammograms, who knows when I would have been diagnosed?" Breast cancer survivor Angel Leon said. 

Leon, a mother of two, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2019 after an abnormal mammogram in 2019 had her doctors keeping a close eye. 

"I thought of my daughters and they are so young, I just thought I have to beat this," said Leon. 

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And that's exactly what she did, undergoing a double mastectomy in 2020 right before COVID-19 hit. Leon knows she's one of the lucky ones catching her cancer early.

"We want to catch it when it's still contained in the breast so cancer caught at stage one, stage two will definitely have a better outcome," said Dr. Phantana-Angkool, a breast surgical oncologist at Overlake Cancer Center who also says while early is good, she is seeing a worrisome trend.

"We have been seeing women diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age as early as their 30s," Dr. Phantana-Angkool said. 

Data from Overlake Medical Center shows the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s has doubled from .03% to .07% so far this year. 

Cancer organizations have different recommendations for women. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women ages 50-74 get mammograms every two years and women over 40 years old should talk to their doctor. 

Dr. Phantana-Angkool says those recommendations aren't likely to change for women in their 30s unless they have a gene mutation or are considered high risk.

"You would have to screen a lot of women in order to find that one woman and there just aren't enough studies," she said.

So what can all women do on their own?

“Know your breast. Breast cancer can present itself in many ways, it can present as a palpable lump in the breast, it can present as nipple discharge, or overlying skin changes," Dr. Phantana-Angkool said.

Eligible women should schedule that mammogram before it's too late.

"We're moms, we are working, but until you get that phone call saying that you're positive-- I'm at a loss of words other than to make that phone call," said Leon. 

Leon also adds while she is seeing the number of mammograms level off after taking a dip during the pandemic, it's still not quite where it could be. 

"October is a good time, it's important, it's life-saving," she said.