Young woman who developed breast cancer at 26 reveals the warning signs she wished she had known

At 26, Emily Harrison enjoyed her carefree lifestyle by traveling abroad for eight months, but on December 2, 2020, after returning home, her world as she knew it was turned upside down due to an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis.

The Melbourne florist maintained a healthy routine and experienced only one common fatal symptom, a small lump in her breast.

“My first thought after the prognosis was, am I going to die?” Emily told FEMAIL.

“I had incredibly high emotions for a long time and wasn’t sure how to process them.”

Although she has a family history of breast cancer, Emily was unaware that she would be battling the disease at such a young age.

Emily Harrison (pictured) traveled for eight months through Southeast Asia, Korea, Europe, Morocco and Japan before being diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2020 at age 26.

Although she has a family history of breast cancer, Emily was unaware that she would be battling the disease at such a young age

Although she has a family history of breast cancer, Emily was unaware that she would be battling the disease at such a young age

Emily told FEMAIL she never imagined cancer would be an isolating experience and was unaware of how the diagnosis would permanently affect her life

Emily told FEMAIL she never imagined cancer would be an isolating experience and was unaware of how the diagnosis would permanently affect her life

The young florist first noticed the lump in the shower, but considered it only a breast cyst.

After three weeks with no change, her parents and partner urged her to see a primary care physician who referred for an ultrasound.

“It was during this appointment that I realized that the lump may be more sinister than I expected,” she said.

“I remember the sonographer went to get his supervisor, she looked at the scans and told me she would recommend skipping a mammogram and having a biopsy right away,” she said.

In less than 24 hours, Emily was called back to discuss the results and further required tests, including a sentinel lymph node biopsy and a breast core biopsy.

The results of the procedures discovered and determined that the lump was cancerous, leaving Emily feeling vulnerable and concerned.

The young florist first saw the lump in the shower, but considered it only a breast cyst

The young florist first saw the lump in the shower, but considered it only a breast cyst

The results of the procedures discovered and determined that the lump was cancerous, leaving Emily feeling vulnerable and concerned

The results of the procedures discovered and determined that the lump was cancerous, leaving Emily feeling vulnerable and concerned

How to self-examine your breasts:

Step 1: Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape and color
  • Evenly shaped breasts with no visible distortion or swelling

If you notice any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimples, wrinkles or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed in instead of protruding)
  • Redness, pain, rash, or swelling

Step 2: Now raise your arms and look for the same changes

Step 3: While standing in front of the mirror, look for fluid coming from one or both nipples (this could be watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood)

Step 4: Then feel your breasts while lying down, use your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping fingers flat and together

Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while standing or sitting

Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and smooth, so they like to do this step in the shower

Cover your entire chest using the same hand movements as described in Step 4.

Source: breast cancer.org

Since the diagnosis, Emily has learned that she has a BRCA-1 gene mutation, meaning the cancer was not her own fault.

“I wish I knew all the different breast cancer treatment plans and options; I had the impression that I would have a few rounds of chemotherapy followed by a one-off operation and that would be it, but there is so much more to it.’

Emily has had to make difficult choices about biological children, surgeries, reconstructions and treatment plans.

“I’ve had IVF and my eggs are frozen, I’m in early menopause, I get exhausted so much more easily than I used to, I have a monthly injection to protect my ovaries, and I have regular heart scans to make sure the chemotherapy has my heart not damaged,” she said.

Since being diagnosed, Emily has learned that she has a BRCA-1 gene mutation, meaning the cancer was not her own fault.

Since being diagnosed, Emily has learned that she has a BRCA-1 gene mutation, meaning the cancer was not her own fault.

“I wish I knew all the different breast cancer treatment plans and options,” she said

“I wish I knew all the different breast cancer treatment plans and options; I was under the impression that I would have a few rounds of chemotherapy followed by a single surgery and that would be it, but there is so much more to it,” she said.

Emily has had to make tough choices about biological children, surgeries, reconstructions and treatment plans

Emily has had to make tough choices about biological children, surgeries, reconstructions and treatment plans

After completing the IVF process for egg collection and body scans to confirm the cancer had not spread elsewhere, Emily had a port-a-cath placed in her breast to receive chemotherapy without significant damage to her. cause veins.

She then began six months of chemotherapy and has a small scar on the right side of her chest from the catheter.

Unfortunately, due to the harsh nature of chemotherapy, Emily gradually lost her hair follicles, but she isn’t afraid to post pictures of herself on social media.

“I’m going through a variety of emotions, a lot of the time I’m still just trying to process what I’ve been through in the past eight months,” she said.

“During my months of chemotherapy, I felt a lot of resentment and anger. As much as I’d like no one else to go through what I’m going through, I often wonder why it’s happening to me.’

Emily said she never imagined cancer would be an isolating experience and was unaware of how the diagnosis would permanently affect her life.

On July 7, 2021, Emily had surgery to remove further tissue of concern and to determine if she needs radiation therapy

On July 7, 2021, Emily had surgery to remove further tissue of concern and to determine if she needs radiation therapy

Emily's top advice to other women is to 'don't be afraid' to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your body

Emily’s top advice to other women is to ‘don’t be afraid’ to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your body

On July 7, 2021, Emily had surgery to remove further tissue of concern and to determine if she needs radiation therapy.

“I’ll be on hormone therapy for ten years and will have to undergo physical therapy for the rest of my life to prevent the development of a condition known as lymphedema,” she said.

“I will also be undergoing physical therapy sessions to prevent lymphedema from developing in my left arm, where all my lymph nodes will be removed.”

Emily’s number one piece of advice to other women is to ‘don’t be afraid’ to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your body.

She considers herself extremely fortunate that doctors took her case seriously and understood the gravity of the situation.

“Without this, I could be in a very different position than I am now,” she said.

What are the most common breast cancer symptoms?

* Breast Lumps

* Changes in breast size or shape

* Skin changes, including dimples, rashes, or wrinkles in the breast

* Nipple changes, such as turning inward or just feeling different from normal

* Abnormal nipple discharge

* Inflamed breast where your breast may look red or swollen

* hard breasts

* A red, scaly rash on the chest

* Chest pain

Source: Cancer Council Australia

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