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I’m too young for breast cancer

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.

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  1. Hi Danielle,

    Thank you so much for sharing your store. It is so important to take care of our temple and listen to our body. I hope all is well with you my Heart goes out to you. I have been Blessed with years of be Cancer Free since my mother passed away from Breast Cancer so I make it a point to have my mammogram every year, this is something that is Very Important to me as well and being here for my daughter Danielle.
    May GOD continue to BLESS you with Good Health.

  2. Thank you, Danielle, for sharing your story to spread awareness not only that cancer can occur at any age and the importance of breast self exam but also to consider genetic testing.

    I think many of us would have had the same reaction at age 22 brushing off the lump because of course at age 22 we would not think it could be cancer. Who even thinks of doing a breast self exam at that age?

    Best wishes to you for continued strength and great health! Please know how important and appreciated your outreach is- to help others prevent an experience like yours in their life! There is no greater gift. Many blessings to you!

  3. Thank you Danielle for telling your story. I felt so bad for you. Do they have I under control or is it getting worse. I will keep you in my prayers that God will get you through this and do all he can to give you a clean bill of health. Thank you again for sharing your story. I didn’t get my first exam until I was over 50. Had a few close scares a couple of times but it all turned out well for me. Wished yours had for you.

  4. Tracey Stills

    Danielle, thank you for sharing your story. We have so much in common but I was 37 and it was 14 years ago. I had to fight to have a mammogram. SO GLAD you listened to your instincts and went for your ultrasound. I’m so grateful for the research and studies that have gone forth for young women as yourself. Keep telling your story and helping others live!!! Together we can make a difference because we NEED each other to SURVIVE!

    Tracey Stills
    Breast Cancer Survivor
    2002! Striving and Thriving.

  5. You are an inspiration and I appreciate you for your courage to share. This I’m sure was a very difficult thing to experience.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Glad you trusted your instincts even though you were scared.
    You are an inspiration to all of us afraid, worried and unsure.
    Courage & good health to you!
    May God continue to bless you!

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About the Author

Danielle Garland
Danielle Garland

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.