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Tarah was in her 20s with a young son when she found a lump in her breast.
She went to see her GP, who thought that it was probably a benign cluster, which are common in younger women. After a series of tests, Tarah was called back to see her doctor. She assumed it was just to discuss next steps and didn't think to bring her husband along for the conversation. She couldn't believe it when her doctor told her she had breast cancer.
"All I could think of was 'how did this happen to me?'
I am the healthiest I've ever been. I'm fit, I don't smoke. I eat well, I don't drink. I have no family history and I breastfed my son. I've done all the right things.
I'd never heard of anyone with breast cancer in their 30s, let alone 20s".
Breast cancer is much less common in young women, so it generally comes as much more of a shock. Because of the stage of life they are in, young women like Tarah are also faced with different issues.
"The treatment that could save me could also make me infertile. So I had IVF to preserve my eggs."
Typically, young women are diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancers which require harsher treatments.
Tarah had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and took tamoxifen as part of her treatment.
Young women also face a higher possibility of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body, as well as the cancer returning. And young women are more likely to have a more aggressive breast cancer than older women.
All these factors mean that it is especially important for young women to be breast aware.
HOW TO BE BREAST AWARE
Every adult should be breast aware. Breast awareness is being familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, so that you can identify any unusual changes (such as a new lump).
Take the time to ‘get to know’ how your breasts normally look and feel through normal regular activities (such as showering, getting dressed, using body lotion or looking in the mirror). Early detection gives the best possible chance of survival if you are diagnosed with breast cancer. If you notice any changes in your breasts, see your doctor without delay, so that the changes can be checked by a health professional.
You don’t need to use a special technique, but ensure you look at and feel your breasts regularly. Make sure this includes all parts of your breast, your armpit and up to your collarbone.
Men can get breast cancer too. If you notice any new and unusual changes in your breasts it is important to see your doctor without delay, so that the changes can be checked by a health professional.