Cancer is not just for the older generation!

In September 2021, I was around 30 weeks pregnant with my second son Eli when I felt a lump in my right breast. I raised the concern with my midwife and every single health care professional I came in contact with after that. Each and every one of them told me it was a blocked milk duct and to just put heat on there and massage it.

When Eli was born, I continued to raise my concerns about the lump but was again told it was a blocked milk duct. At his 6 week check up, I raised the concern with my GP who immediately recognised that it was not a blocked milk duct and she referred me to a specialist.

Within days, I had a biopsy which came back as suspicious for malignancy. This lead to more biopsies, ultrasounds, an MRI, a CT scan, a mammogram and a bone scan.

On the 11th of February 2022 I was officially diagnosed with Stage 2, Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - Breast Cancer. I have a not so common subtype (ER/PR- HER2+) which is aggressive and puts me at high risk of reoccurrence. I have had to endure 16 rounds of Chemotherapy (so far - likely 14 to go), a double Mastectomy and a range of other targeted treatments to hopefully cure this disease - all while caring for a newborn and a toddler.

Now, I don't blame my health care professionals for dismissing my lump as a blocked milk duct - if they had never seen a pregnant woman with breast cancer before it is an easy oversight. However, with 1 in 1000 pregnancies being afflicted by cancer (a third of those being breast cancer) and pregnant and lactating women being at an increased risk of breast cancer for at least 5 years after childbirth, it is something that should have a standard operating procedure around and education during gaining their qualifications. I believe that all it will take is for each and every health care professional to meet someone like me and hear my story for them to have that imprinted in their mind so that next time their patient mentions a lump in their breast or breast changes, they click into gear and start a monitoring and referral process. Early detection saves lives. On the young women's breast cancer pages, the most common point mentioned is that they were dismissed for similar reasons to what I was - many of them now have advanced cancers which could have been identified and treated much earlier.

Through my treatment I have also managed to get a blood clot in my lung, a lung haemorrhage and heart failure. It’s been freakin’ tough.

I am on a mission to create a training and awareness program to be rolled out to every midwife and Dr dealing with young women in the hope that no young woman is every dismissed again. I believe this will save lives. I also want to remind young women everywhere that they are never too young for this disease and it is crucial to monitor any changes in their breasts. If you do not feel heard by your health care professional, seek a second opinion and keep seeking until you get an answer. I’ve created The BEAT Movement to help young women and health care professionals navigate this.
There is so much room for improvement for young people experiencing cancer symptoms!

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