Justine Egan, diagnosed at 23

I say that I was one of the lucky ones, because if it were not for my doctor, my cancer would not have been found as early as it was.

Back in late June 2012, I felt a lump in my right breast by chance. While I was mildly frightened at this, my boyfriend assured me it was probably nothing but that I should go to the doctor.

Now I must say, at the time I hated going to the doctors. They made me anxious and I hated waiting for my name to be called. However, after much prodding by my mother, I made an appointment with my gynecologist after returning home from a vacation in Las Vegas.

That July my gynecologist confirmed the presence of the lump. He even said that it felt like it could be a fibrous muscle mass and was very likely benign considering my lack of family history. However, to be certain, he ordered an ultrasound.

“Listen to your body. Be proactive with your health and it could potentially save your life.”

Now I want to make this point of my story very clear. If he had said it was nothing, and to check back in six months I would’ve walked out that door with peace of mind.

What 23-year-old gets cancer?

I didn’t know anyone my age with cancer, and in the cancer ads I never saw someone who looked like me. All of the people represented in such ads are very young children or older adults (like my grandfather’s age). Again I say, what 23-year-old gets cancer? Especially a 23-year-old with NO family history of ANY cancer on either maternal or paternal side?

An ultrasound, mammogram, and a needle core-biopsy confirmed the worst—breast cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage I, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I easily could’ve been diagnosed Stage IV in a few short months as my cancer was extremely aggressive and growing at a rapid rate.

My breast surgeon confirmed what I had thought, that my gynecologist had saved my life. She even knew a 26-year-old female patient who was diagnosed Stage IV because doctors had dismissed that woman’s symptoms earlier on.

I credit my gynecologist with saving my life, because if it weren’t for him, my cancer would not have been caught as early as it was. I also thank my mother and boyfriend, who both convinced me to go to get myself checked even when I did not want to.

Listen to your body. Be proactive with your health and it could potentially save your life.

Symptom

  • lump on right breast