Women's Health

24-Year-Old Who Faced Breast Cancer Stresses That Young Women Are at Risk Too

Despite unusual diagnosis, Alex took precautionary measures to protect herself

Whitaker’s diagnosis was not confirmed until after she had undergone an ultrasound, an MRI, a mammogram and finally, a biopsy. In fact, the mammogram did not reveal anything. This is a rather common notion, seeing as how breast tissue in younger women tends to be dense. Even if they undergo a mammogram, the lump(s) will not show up in the image. “So, if you’re not routinely screened, at least have a clinical breast exam at your annual well-woman exam,” said Dr. Lisa Minton, a breast surgeon at Florida Hospital Medical Group.

Another issue following breast cancer diagnosis is fertility and “whether it’s safe to proceed to conceive afterward is a big issue,” said Dr. Minton. Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, and both chemotherapy and tamoxifen can trigger irregular menstrual periods or bring on natural menopause earlier than normal. This, in turn, restricts time for pregnancy and childbirth. In such instances, some women choose to harvest and freeze their eggs.

Whitaker, however, decided to undergo a hormone injection to trick her body into believing that she is in menopause, thereby protecting her reproductive system.