Jeannie Karwowski, diagnosed at 30

I never expected that cancer would be part of my life. No one in my family had any kind of cancer, I was young and healthy. I had just gotten married and moved to a new city and life was great.

The first health change I noticed was tiredness. I was sleeping more, and felt much more fatigued than I was used to, but I had just turned 30 and thought it was just a sign of aging.

I also noticed one of my nipples was a little droopy and wasn’t symmetrical anymore, but I didn’t really think it was a big deal. “Another sign of aging,” I thought.

I do breast self-exams every month, and I felt something hard in the same breast as the droopy nipple. I thought it might a cyst or inflammation, but I knew it was a change from my normal. I had just moved and didn’t have a doctor yet, but I had a hunch that the lump needed to be checked out soon, and decided to take action.

“Just because you are young does not mean you are cancer-proof.”

I went to an urgent care clinic and met with a nurse practitioner who gave me information about inflammation. She was pretty certain that’s all it was and recommended pain medication if the lump bothered me.

Since I had been doing regular self-exams, I knew the lump was a change, and wanted to know for sure what it was. The nurse practitioner agreed to do an ultrasound just in case. The image revealed something suspicious and the lump showed characteristics of a malignant tumor.

I had a mammogram and biopsy done over several appointments within a month. The diagnosis came back as infiltrating ductal carcinoma – breast cancer, stage 2. They did a needle biopsy in surrounding lymph nodes and those also tested positive for cancer. Subsequently, an MRI exam revealed multiple malignant tumors in my right breast.

I underwent treatment including chemotherapy to shrink the 1 ½ cm tumor, a mastectomy to remove my right breast and radiation to fight the cancer in the surrounding area.

Now I am speaking out to help others recognize early warning signs and encouraging them to get checked. It’s important to note the small changes in your health, even if you are very healthy. Just because you are young does not mean you are cancer-proof. If you see a health change that lasts longer than two weeks, check with your doctor— it’s worth the price of your co-pay to figure out what is wrong and start treating it.


  • fatigue
  • asymmetric breasts