24-Year-Old Who Faced Breast Cancer Stresses That Young Women Are at Risk Too
In the United States, over 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and around 12,000 are under the age of 40. Although breast cancer in young women is considered rare, it is still the most common cancer among women ages 15 to 39.
In young women, breast cancer tends to be diagnosed at advanced stages and it tends to be more aggressive. There is also a higher risk of metastatic recurrence, as well as a higher mortality rate. Still, statistics to date do not indicate an alarming increase in breast cancer rates or a rising epidemic. “I don’t think this should be something that worries young women, but it’s important to think of our health and any type of change in your body should be brought to your doctor’s attention,” said Carol DeSantis, Director of Breast and Gynecological Cancer Surveillance at the American Cancer Society.
24-year old Alex Whitaker, a public relations professional, is a part of this rather small group of young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. She noticed a lump in her breast two weeks following the new year. It appeared out of nowhere, which was unusual seeing as how she had undergone her annual exam in October and her results did not reveal anything abnormal. Even so, on February 8th of 2018, Whitaker was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. “It’s like doctors all say the same thing: you’re the youngest person I’ve ever seen. Like when I went and got my ultrasound, the radiologist came out and she was like, ‘I just wanted to meet you in person, cause you’re the youngest person I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t believe it’,” she said.
After undergoing her first round of chemotherapy, her tumor shrunk by 70%. Whitaker’s treatments will continue throughout the summer and in the fall, she will undergo a double mastectomy in order to eliminate any chance of cancer recurrence, followed by reconstructive surgery. “I could do lumpectomy and radiation, but all my doctors said some patients end up coming back with recurring cancer,” she said.
Young women with breast cancer are faced with some unique challenges. Read on to learn more.
Photo: Orlando Sentinel