I’m too young for breast cancer
In June 2015, I began to notice a difference in my breasts. While doing a self-exam, I felt a lump in my left breast that didn’t appear in my right one. I’m a healthy, young adult, so I didn’t worry myself about it. Instead, I brushed it off and went about my daily routine.
Two months later, the overall appearance of my breasts started to change. One became larger than the other and one nipple began to turn inward. I know it’s not uncommon to have uneven breasts and I wasn’t in pain, so I still didn’t think too much of it.
That September, I took a vacation to Cancun. My left breast had suddenly become excruciatingly painful, and I was having trouble sleeping at night. I took Advil for relief, but I knew something wasn’t right. The next day, I called to schedule a doctor’s appointment. I talked to my best friend about it, and she encouraged me not to worry. She’d found a lump in her breast and it turned out to be a cyst. I was relieved to hear her story and was confident I would have the same results.
In early October, I went in for a breast exam at Advocate South Suburban Hospital and left with a referral for an ultrasound. When the ultrasound results came back, they were abnormal and my doctor recommended a biopsy. Later, I received a call after work one day and was asked to come into my doctor’s office.
It was that day that I received the worst news of my life: I had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 22.
My heart dropped and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could I possibly have breast cancer so young? Routine mammograms aren’t recommended until I reach 40. There was no history of breast cancer in my family, so how could this be?
I eventually had genetic testing done, and the results showed that I have a gene mutation, which leads to an increased risk of developing cancer. I couldn’t help but wonder how different things may have been had I been tested for the gene as a child, or went to the doctor when I first saw signs of trouble. I never thought breast cancer could affect me because I was so young.
Now, I encourage young women I know to perform breast self-exams and talk to their doctor if anything doesn’t feel right or if the appearance of their breasts changes in any way. Many young women like myself don’t realize the many symptoms of breast cancer. Women may also consider genetic testing if they are worried. It can help you make decisions about your health before problems come up.
Cancer has no age limit, and I share my story to spread awareness. By educating women, I hope to save lives by helping them to tackle this disease during the early stages or before it even develops.
About the Author
Danielle Garland is a 23-year-old battling breast cancer. Even through all of the disappointment and sadness she considers her diagnosis a blessing in disguise. It helped her find an inner strength she didn't know she had. She hopes to use her experience to spread awareness about breast cancer in young women.