Breast Cancer and Young Women

GAO Podcast IconYoung women account for 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States. They tend to be diagnosed at a later stage and experience worse outcomes and unique issues—such as fertility concerns.

Listen to Marcia Crosse, a director in our Health Care team discuss the effects of breast cancer on younger women and some of their unique challenges:

And, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, read on to learn about federal efforts to provide breast cancer education and support to young women.

Initiatives Aimed at Young Women 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent nearly $37 million in recent years on breast cancer prevention research, supporting grants, educating health professionals, and a public education campaign. For example, CDC conducted research in to the economic implications of breast cancer, infertility, and survivorship.

Figure 1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Reported Spending on EARLY Act Activities, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2016(Excerpted from GAO-17-19)

Given the importance of early detection—and the tendency to think of breast cancer as an older woman’s disease—CDC spent about $9 million on a national campaign to educate young women about breast cancer. Specifically, CDC launched 2 initiatives using social media:

  • Bring Your Brave—a web-based campaign that shares online videos with personal testimonials about prevention, risk, and survivorship from young women who have experienced breast cancer, and provides tools and templates for young women to share their stories.
  •  Know: BRCA—an interactive web resource that enables women to determine their potential risk of having a breast cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA) mutation, and encourages them to discuss this risk with their family and medical providers.

Figure 2: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Know: BRCA Website(Excerpted from GAO-17-19)

It’s too soon to know how effective these programs have been, but to learn more about the goals of federal initiatives aimed at providing breast cancer education and support to young women, check out our full report.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact Marcia Crosse at crossem@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.
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