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Diagnosis Breast Cancer: A Young Patient’s Story

Sunday, May 23, at 6:13 p.m., at age 36, was the day that I learned that I have breast cancer. I became an official grown up at that very moment. I knew that this diagnosis could be a possibility, as the radiologist who performed my biopsy on the Friday before told me that the results would most likely not be promising.

I was told that it might be Monday before the results were known, and I was okay with waiting the weekend to hear,  but I knew by the way she looked at me that my life would probably be changing in a way I did not ever expect it to.

It was still shocking when I received the call because I have no risk factors, no family history and was not having any pain or problems in my breast area. I have not ever felt a lump in either breast. Plus, as a type 2 diabetic, I figured that having diabetes would be my “get out of jail for free card”, but I was wrong. Very wrong.

A few weeks prior to being diagnosed,  I had a screening digital mammogram. I work in a radiology clinic and my employer offers this as a free service to their employees. Since I am at an age where a baseline mammogram is recommended, I decided to go ahead and have one now for no other reason because I could and the exam was free. My primary care physician wanted me to wait another year before I had this exam, as she had a concern about radiation exposure. Telling me to wait until age 37 isn’t wrong and she gave me good advice based on my medical history.

The good news is that what I have, invasive ductal breast cancer, is very treatable and was caught extremely early.

I was elated to learn that the MRI I had done a few days after my diagnosis showed that the cancer is just central to the mass. I have also met with an oncologist who helped me decide on what kind of surgery to have. Deciding between having a full mastectomy or a partial mastectomy has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I don’t think I’ve been as overwhelmed in my life as I was when I left the surgeon’s office after she explained in layman’s terms what my surgical options were.  Even though it was difficult, I know that I am lucky to have a choice; I know that some patients don’t have a choice at all.

I will need radiation after the surgery and possibly chemo, but that won’t be known until the surgery and my cells are tested. Obviously, I did not expect to spend my summer fighting breast cancer, but it’s a fight I am going to win.  Bottom line is that if you are over the age of 40, be sure to get a digital screening mammogram every year.

If you are over 30, but not yet 40, get a digital baseline mammogram. Age 35 is the recommended age for baseline mammograms.

Perhaps earlier than age 30, but talk to your doctor.  The digital mammogram shows the breast tissue in greater detail than the analog method (the “old way”). In fact, if I had an analog mammogram, my cancer wouldn’t have been found until my next mammogram, which would have been at age 40. Who knows what my prognosis would be at that time?

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Hope Mckiernan
Hope Mckiernan
9 years ago

I was recently diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and was furtunate enough to be abel to have brachytherapy instead of traditional radiation after my surgery. It is a wonderful alternative and you should definitely expore this if you meet the criteria.

Schwartz03
Schwartz03
10 years ago

My daugther was just recently diagnosed with Infilitrating Ductal Carcinoma Stage 3 as it was in 5 lymph nodes. She is 30 years of age with a 14 month old baby girl, 4 year old son and a 8 year old son. She was still nursing the baby when she was found the lump. She was in the process of weaning the baby. She took her first treatment of Chemo today. We no we have a long road ahead of us, but she has a very positive attitude and God is with her every step of the way, along with many wonderful friends and family. God Bless you in your journey also.

Liz Asque
Liz Asque
10 years ago

I am 23, my name is Liz. I have a pretty strong family history of breast cancer and I myself had a scare last year during my first semester of graduate school. I am aMaster's studetn in genetics and I plan on going to med school to study oncology and discover better treatments and ultimately the cure for various types of breast cancer. I am currently going in for my 6 month rescreening and I am a bit nervous. the first screening was pretty scary and I finally got a surgeon to tell me that the lump the doctors were feeling was just a cyst. I am just wondering, beyond what I read online from various websites, if you strong women could give me some advice in tracking changes? Or what type of mammogram/ultra sound I should be asking for? I admire your courage and bravery for pushing through this disease. As I have made to my family, I promise to work as hard as I can to finding a cure! Thank you, God bless.

Katie Parker
Katie Parker
10 years ago
Reply to  Liz Asque

Liz: I spoke to one of the radiologists at the clinic that I work at and he advised that due to your strong family history of breast cancer, you might want to discuss genetic screening for the BRCA gene and screening breast MRI with your physician. In addition, instead of tracking changes, anytime you see or feel a change in your breasts, you need to see your physician ASAP. The Digital technology is best at early detection. Thanks so much for all of your hard work studying to find a cure for breast cancer. I am sure we will hear about great things from you!

Katie Parker
Katie Parker
10 years ago
Reply to  Liz Asque

Hi, Liz: Thank you for your comments to my post. I am not sure about tracking changes, keeping a journal may be best for that, but as far as the type of mammogram is best, digital ones are the best. The digital technology sees in greater detail. Not sure about the ultrasound, but I will ask one of the radiologists at the clinic I work at and get back to you.

Ladonna2010
Ladonna2010
10 years ago

I had my first llump removed at age 22. Self examines are so important and should be started at a very early age. If there is any history of breast cancer in your family demand a baseline mammogram.. My doctor told me 25 is not too young. It seems to me that there are younger and younger women being diagnosised with breast cancer; our best defense is education and early detection. They are the greatest aid in fighting this disease. My thoughts and prayers are with you

Sandprincess002
Sandprincess002
10 years ago

My name is Jennifer and I was diagnosed with Stage three breast cancer at age 32. I am also young and I didn't find the cancer early enough and I was put on a course of chemo right away for 6 cycles every three weeks. I also had to have a bilatteral Mastectomy done, after that because the cancer was in my lymphnodes and still after chemo I still had a small amount of cancer leftover. I needed a second session of chemo another 6 cycles every two weeks. Also in about a week I start radiation for 6 1/2 weeks. I am also gene positive for the gene and there was history in my family. My story is still going but we as in all breast cancer patients will fight this and we will cure it. God Bless all families that are going through this…good luck my prayers are with you always.

jennifer
jennifer
10 years ago

I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 33.I had 8 rounds of chemo and 7 1/2 weeks radiation and a double mastectomy as well.I had 5 out of 20 nodes that tested positive.I tested negative for the gene but my oncoligst is recommending that I have a hysterectomy.I wish all of you the best of luck stay strong!!

Jennifer C

Dtrepkau
Dtrepkau
10 years ago

Radiation is a breeze to chemo. I had breast cancer. I finished my chemo on Jan 5, 2010. I had one round of AC every 2weeks times 4 and taxcol for 12 weeks. Then radiation for 28 tratments. You will get tired faster because of having chemo first . It is scary the first time. i have become good friends with my techs. I go back to see them all the time. Hang in there. Think positive. I set goals for myself. A weekend away, a show. Something for you to look forward to as you go through this process. I had the same type of cancer with 4 positive nodes. I only needed one mastectomy. There is no family history. I have aunts in there 80's. I am the only one. I also saw the cancer social worker at my cancer unit in the hospital. It helps to talk to someone not in your family or friends. The best of luck to you. There is an end.

Jrj0205
Jrj0205
10 years ago

Hi, My name is Jeannie and my story is almost the same as yours except I had just turned 40. I had never had any pain or had felt anything, but I had a rash show up that just wouldn't go away. I had to have chemo, radiation and a full mastectomy. I am 45 now and completely cancer free. Keep your head up everything will be fine. Jeannie Johnson

lidiya hailu
lidiya hailu
9 years ago
Reply to  Jrj0205

Hi, jeannie my name is lidiya i had stage 3 breast cancer. I had to have sergery chemo and radiation. My quashion is youre peride come bake after chemo

Jennifer Hennick
10 years ago

Hello. My name is Jennifer Hennick and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed about 4.5 years ago at the age of 28. I was a full time nursing student, a single mom of two children who were 5 and 3 years old, and UNINSURED…yikes! I found my lump while shaving my armpits in the shower. I had a friend whose mother is a nurse practitioner and she agreed to examine me..she immediately told me to seek another exam at my campus healthcenter. The physician at the student health center suggested a mammogram…I was distraught because I was broke! I rememer thinking…should I really go through with it? They would probably just tell me that it's a cyst. THANK GOD the receptionist could see my concern and she set me up with a local organization that ended up paying for my mammogram…my ultrasound…my core biopsy…and when I was given the official diagnosis this organization set me up through a treatment program and all of my treatment was paid for! Today I am practicing as an oncology nurse and this June 8th I will graduate from the Nurse Practitioner program! Raising breast cancer awareness within my community is my passion…I am the founding member of the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) Bakersfield. The YSC is a non-profit organization that focuses on the unique needs of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. I fully believe in the life saving power of self-breast exams and promote that everywhere I go and to everyone I speak with. Cancer provided a path to my calling…I am who I am today because of my breast cancer diagnosis! Check out the ysc website: youngsurvival.org and join my local ysc fanpage on facebook: YSC Bakersfield. I am so excited about the Pink Lotus Breast Center…what an amazing organization!

LEONORA STENTA
LEONORA STENTA
8 years ago

HI JENNIFER, I TOO AM A 5 1/2 YEAR SURVIVOR. I WENT TO MY GYN FOR MY YEARLY EXAM,INCLUDING A BREAST EXAM, EVERYTHING WAS FINE. MY DOC. SENT ME FOR A MAMMOGRAM…I HAD BREAST CANCER,STAGE 2 THE DOC SAID I HAD A 50-50 CHANCE OF LIVING, THAT IT DID NOT MATTER IF I HAD A MASTECOMY OR NOT, SO I KEPT MY BREAST;DURING THE BIOPSY, THE NOVACAINE DID NOT WORK, SO WHEN THEY SLICED MY RIGHT BREAST I SCREAMED AND THEY HAD TO HOLD ME DOWN TO GIVE ME MORE NOVACAINE; IT WAS HORRIBLE. I HAD A LUMPECTOMY,THEN I FIND OUT THAT THE DOC. MISSED SOME OF THE CANCER, SO 6 WEEKS LATER THEY REOPENED MY WOUND, FOUND THAT CANCER HAD SPREAD,REMOVED 10 LYMPNODES,WENT ON TO MONTHS OF CHEMO AND THEN RADIATION, I WAS ALSO GOING THROUGH A DIVORSE AT THE SAME TIME,LIFE WAS HELL! MY EX HUSBAND HAD BEEN PUTTING ME THROUGH HELL FOR 4 YEARS AND I WAS DEPRESSED AND EXTREMELY STRESSED, AND TO THIS DAY, MYSELF AND FAMILY MEMBERS BELIEVE THE CANCER DEVELOPED BECAUSE OF ALL THE STRESS. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS POSSIBLE? I DO. DURING MY TREATMENT I DID THE BEST I COULD TO KEEP A SMILE ON MY FACE, TO CALM MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY, AND NOW I LIVE A VERY HAPPY LIFE(with the love of my life)! CANCER CHANGED MY LIFE! IT GAVE ME THE COURAGE TO DIVORCE MY HUSBAND AT THE TIME, IT GAVE ME STRENGHT,IT GAVE ME THE OUTLOOK I DID NOT HAVE BEFORE.I MET THE MOST AMAZING PEOPLE WHO REALLY CARED.I LIVED ALONE THROUGH MY ORDEAL, BUT MY DOG “PEPPER” GAVE ME COMFORT THROUGH THE WHOLE TIME. NOW I HAVE A TATTOO ON MY BACK THAT SAYS “LOVE EACH DAY”,NOW I LIVE MY LIFE THROUGH THOSE WORDS. I, TOO; AM WHO I AM TODAY BECAUSE OF MY BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSIS! MY NOW HUSBAND THROUGH ME A 50TH BIRTHDAY (BIG) PARTY, INSTEAD OF GIFTS, I ASKED EVERYONE THERE TO DONATE TO BREAST CANCER.ξMY HUSBAND AND I ξPERSONALLY BROUGHT THE CHECK TO SAINT CARIATS AT THE MERCY HOSPITAL IN SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTES.THIS WAS THE MOST POWERFUL TIME OF MY LIFE…GOD BLESS, SINCERELY LEONORA (LEE) STENTAξ

Susan
9 years ago

Dear Jennifer, I too am a breast cancer survivor and although I thought I had good insurance, I discovered it only paid 3000.00 of my 54,000 hospital bill, no chemo, no radiation, no labs and did not even cover my biopsy to diagnose the cancer. I had stage 2 locally evasive cancer and needed a mastectomy, chemo and radiation. Although I was unemployed I did not qualify for aid, what a long a tenuous journey finding help for treatment! I found comfort in creating items to help other women just after surgery and introduced them at the Nurses Oncology Convention in San Diego last July. Still I am not getting much product out there just yet so I would like to reach out to your group. Nurse Navigators and oncology nurses are who we want to reach to get awareness. I also am wanting to share and speak about my journey, to give hope and encouragement to newly diagnosed. You can reach me through my site postop-tions.com and read my story under the my journey tab. Hope to hear from you.

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