As generations change, so does the world around us. That sentiment is most evident in the world of technology. The younger generations Y and Z not only have cooler digital “stuff” than some of Gen X-ers did, they are smarter with it. So beyond just having way more selfies than any society should ever need, are there true benefits to a tech-savvy, digital native generation coming up behind us?
Since October is all things Pink, we’ve examined the differences between women over and under the age of 40 in how they use digital and whether these usage patterns may impact breast cancer.
Why 40 as the age divide? According to the American Cancer Society, women should begin routine mammograms at age 40. This number also coincides neatly with demographic breaks around digital usage.
Will the way the next generations engage with the digital world effect real change in breast cancer? We think in some ways, yes.
We’ve already seen a shift over the last few years to a more edgy, open tone in the breast cancer conversation. The classic Susan G. Komen pink ribbon has spun in to “Save the Tatas” and “Feel Your Boobies.” Women under 40 are much more comfortable being open with their personal affairs. They have grown up starring in YouTube videos and posting self-absorbed news flashes on social media. Women over 40 have had to adjust to putting their lives out there online and many still aren’t comfortable being so candid.
In fact, 57.4% of women under 40 talk openly online and about posts they have seen or made online while only 24% of women over 40 feel the same. And nearly 30% of women over 40 would rather just read than post.
Women over 40:
- Can be most often reached by e-readers, magazines, and newspaper (only one digital media device.)
- Frequent social media mostly on smartphones (63% of the time) but still less than their younger counterparts.
- Engage with social media 3x day or more at only 29.3%.
- Do not consider themselves digital wizards or super tech savvy. They live their lives without it. (Only 36% show significant tech adoption.)
Women under 40:
- Can mostly be reached by tablet, mobile, and desktop (all digital means vs. their older counterparts.)
- Frequent social media mostly via smartphone too but at 73% of the time.
- Engage with social media 3 x day or more at a much higher rate, nearly 60%.
- Consider themselves tech wizards with significant tech adoption at 60%.
The Future of Breast Cancer
The younger generation of women are the next patients, caregivers, friends, and daughters to deal with breast cancer tomorrow and they are different than the older generations dealing with it today. They talk openly about their health and use technology to access news, look for answers, manage their lives and schedules, and support each other. They are digital natives who have grown up with the ability to customize almost everything from desktops and phone cases to curating Pinterest pages and more. Not only will their own experience with breast cancer be different, but we believe they will also start having a significant impact as caregivers. So how is this new generation changing the face and future of breast cancer awareness and treatment? In three ways:
1). Preventative care
More than half (53%) of women under the age of 25 use the calendar on their wireless device to book an appointment or review their schedule. Only 22% of women over 40 use digital calendars. E-reminders of mammograms and annuals will serve as the impetus for higher mammogram and screening compliance.
Less than 73% of women over 40 get the recommended breast cancer screenings. In fact, 80-90% of breast cancers in women without symptoms in the U.S. will be detected by mammography yet only 53% of women 40 and older in the U.S. reported having a mammogram in the last year.
The new generation of women will have screenings plugged in to their devices. And if healthcare providers want to keep up with this trend, they will make it easier to push notifications to their patients as well as create a more seamless approach to booking appointments digitally through mobile means.
This combined with better mammogram environments that include music, warm robes and an almost spa-like approach means the experience itself will continue to become more and more palatable.
As for self-exams, a monthly alert will ding, beep, sing or chime right on cue.
2). Sharing and support
For the younger woman who will someday be diagnosed or become a caregiver, she will turn to social networking and be much more open about asking questions and seeking support. She will use digital tools for managing treatments and all the implications they entail. She will be more compliant with medication e-reminders for herself or the older woman she is caring for.
She will connect with her healthcare provider via email and texting for more in-depth dialogue and immediacy on seeking help.
Perhaps she will set up support pages, be able to connect with extended family and keep all those affected by the diagnosis in touch with what is happening quickly and efficiently.
3). Customized care – customized diagnosis
Five to ten percent of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from either parent. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. Women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 55-65% risk of developing breast cancer before age 70, and often at a younger age that it typically develops.
However, new research is looking at more than a dozen specific and unique markers for diagnosing breast cancer. This more granular and nuanced approach means that treatment regimens will be increasingly personalized based on a patient’s particular markers. Just as their devices and technology are increasingly personalized, their course of breast cancer treatment will also be uniquely tailored.
As science and technology continue to accelerate, the next generation is right there with it – even ahead of it. They are ready to manage and beat breast cancer in a whole new way, with a whole new attitude, and whole new set of tools. And while there will still continue to be way too many duck faces disappearing into Snapchat vapor, many of these generational changes will be for the better. Even for the older of us who someday may need their help.
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