35-Year-Old Model Tells Women To Advocate For Their Own Health
- Philecia La’Bounty, 35, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer after doctors initially told her she didn’t need a mammogram.
- La’Bounty is making sure to tell all women to advocate for their own health and to push your doctor for a screening if you believe something is wrong.
- The current recommendation from the American Cancer Society is that women be given the option to begin annual mammograms at age 40 – and that all women, regardless of risk factors, start annual mammograms at age 45.
- Our medical experts tell us mammograms are needed regardless of your family history because most women with breast cancer have no family history or other identifiable risk factors.
“Accepting this was a big mistake and I realise now that I should have fought harder for testing,” La’Bounty explained to The Sun.Read More
As an active member of TikTok, La’Bounty candidly shares her cancer journey, posting about her good and bad days, and anxiety throughout treatment.
@philecialabountyF**K CANCER 💔♬ original sound – Philecia
La’Bounty is now in remission, but is taking Ibrance (drug name palbociclib) for the treatment of HR-positive (hormone receptor-positive) and HER2-negative (a type of breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) breast cancer.
The treatment is also a CDK4 and CDK6 inhibitor, which are a newer class of drugs indicated for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor positive metastatic breast cancer.
La’Bounty says she was put into medically induced menopause due to her chemotherapy treatment and had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to stop the production of estrogen.
“There’s an epidemic of young women discovering they have breast cancer, and going through early menopause as a result, and no one is talking about it,” says La’Bounty.
Should I Be Getting A Mammogram?
For most, screening for breast cancer is done through a mammogram, which is a screening that looks for lumps in the breast tissue. Currently, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says women should begin yearly mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer.
Women age 40-44 have an option to start screening every year, and women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms, the ACS recommends.
For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer such as a BRCA gene mutation or a medical history including chest radiation therapy before the age of 30.
Beyond genetics, family history and experience with radiation therapy, experiencing menstruation at an early age (before 12) or having dense breasts can also put you into a high-risk category. If you are at a higher risk for developing breast cancer, you should begin screening earlier.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Connie Lehman, chief of the Breast Imaging Division at Massachusetts General Hospital, said people who hadn’t reached menopause yet should prioritize getting a mammogram every year.
“We know that cancers grow more rapidly in our younger patients, and having that annual mammogram can be lifesaving,” Dr. Lehman said.
“After menopause, it may be perfectly acceptable to reduce that frequency to every two years. But what I’m most concerned about is the women who haven’t been in for a mammogram for two, three or four years, those women that have never had a mammogram. We all agree regular screening mammography saves lives,” she said.
What Is HR-Positive and HER2-Negative?
Many people may not realize there are many different types of breast cancer, which can include an HR and a HER2 classification (like La’Bounty’s).
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HER2 is a protein present on breast cancer cells. The amount of this protein can be used to classify breast cancer into different subtypes, such as HER2-positive for those cancers which have an abundance of the protein. HER2-negative breast cancers have low-to-no levels of the HER2 protein.
Researchers have looked to expand this definition further to include patients that have a minimal amount of HER2 expression but do not meet the classic definition for HER2-positive tumors. This group has been called HER2 “low” and is very important as it represents approximately 50 percent of all patients with breast cancer.
Separate from HER2 classification is the presence or absence of hormone receptors (HR) on the surface of cancer. The two types are:
- Hormone receptor-positive (HR-positive) breast cancer: When the cells use estrogen, progesterone, or both to grow and replicate.
- Triple-negative breast cancer: When the hormone receptors are absent. Triple-negative cancers do not have the 2 hormone receptors, nor the HER2 protein, hence triple-negativity.
For women who have early-stage hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer the Oncotype DX test is a genetic test that profiles the tumor and can help predict the risk of your breast cancer returning. After surgery, a piece of the tumor is sent off to be tested. The result is a number otherwise known as the “Oncotype DX score.”
After surgery, a piece of the tumor is sent off to be tested. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s website, “a group of 21 genes in this tissue are analyzed to help determine prognosis (how likely your breast cancer is to return) and if getting chemotherapy will improve your chances that the cancer will not come back.”
The score determines if a woman is at low, intermediate, or high risk of recurrence and based on that result, whether a woman may benefit from the addition of chemotherapy before receiving hormonal therapy. In general, women who have a low score do not need chemotherapy. Women who have a high score may decrease the risk of the cancer coming back with the addition of chemotherapy.
What Is CDK4/6 Inhibitor?
If your type of breast cancer is HR-positive and HER2-negative, and you are postmenopausal, then you may be treated with CDK4/6 inhibitors. A common side effect of these medications is low white blood cell counts.
“Patients may want to talk to their doctors about it since these medications could lower their white blood cell count somewhat and affect their immune system,” says Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
White blood cells are the ones that fight infections and are part of our immune response. “Whether or not patients should remain on these drugs is really a conversation they should be having with their doctor,” says Dr. Comen.
For some, they could take CDK4/6 inhibitors for years with no negative side effect, such as any significant reduction of their white blood cell count. In that instance, physicians may feel very comfortable keeping them on the medications.
“On the other hand, a patient may be newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and we’re not sure of the exact dose they should be on, and there may be ways that the doctor can think about that or adjust the dose so that there is less concern about being immune compromised,” says Dr. Comen.
With assistance from Marisa Sullivan and Danielle Cinone