The Unique Challenges of Young Adult Cancer
- MMA fighter Poliana Botelho, 34, announced that she is currently recovering from cancer treatment.
- She shared that she had cancerous lymph nodes removed and thanked her fans for sending positive energy.
- Currently, it is not recommended that women of average risk for breast cancer begin regular screening (with mammograms) before age 40.
- However, women of all ages should be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and perform regular self-exams.
She shared a video of her putting up her fighting hands in her hospital room, along with the caption: “I’m here to let you know that I’m fine and thank you for all the messages” (translated from Portugese).Read More
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Well wishes for the MMA star came pouring in, and Botelho shared many of them to her Instagram story, alongside the pink breast cancer ribbon. She did not give specifics about the stage of her cancer or if she will be undergoing any additional treatment.
The young, healthy fighter’s cancer diagnosis is another reminder for young adults to be vigilant and know the signs of cancer so they can seek medical care if anything feels off.
Recognizing the signs of breast cancer
Current screening recommendations suggest that women begin getting annual screening for breast cancer (a mammogram) around age 45 — the age recommendation varies a bit depending on risk level. This is because breast cancer is much more common in older women. Women over age 55 may decide to continue getting annual mammograms, or switch to every other year.
Dr. Connie Lehman explains mammogram screening recommendations.
While breast cancer is less common in younger women, it’s still possible — like in Botelho’s case — so it’s important that women of all ages be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, which could include:
- A new breast lump
- Swelling in one breast
- Changes in the nipple
- Redness or flaking in the breast or nipple
- Nipple discharge or blood
- Pain in the breast area
Doctors recommend women perform monthly self-exams on their breasts to detect anything that feels new or out of the ordinary and seek medical treatment immediately. It’s important for young women to realize that they, too, can get breast cancer and seek answers if something feels off.
“When we think about prevention, breast cancer prevention and awareness, the first step is that women need to feel comfortable with their breasts and … know what their breasts feel like normally,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation on prevention.
“For some women, that may mean going to their doctor and walking through what a self-breast exam might feel like so that they know what normal breast tissue feels like. That way if they do feel anything abnormal, whether it’s a lump or discharge from the nipple, they know what to ask and what to look for.”
Cancer in young adults
Unfortunately, there has been an increase in cancer cases in younger adults (under age 50). This could partially have to do with better screening methods and early detection. However, young adults are a historically underserved age group when it comes to cancer research and advocacy — because cancer is more common in older adults and pediatric care gets much funding and attention as well.
For that reason, it’s very important for younger adults with cancer to advocate for their health needs.
Matthew Zachary, a brain cancer survivor who founded an organization called Stupid Cancer, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation that facing cancer in his early 20s presented unique challenges — so now he works to get those challenges addressed by the medical community.
Stupid Cancer Founder Matthew Zachary discusses the doctor-patient relationship.
“It’s really easy to blame the doctor for dismissing me as a person because their job is to cure me,” Matthew said. “But the bedside manner, empathy, and humanity in that should be a balance. There are plenty of doctors that are amazing human beings — the overwhelming majority — amazing human beings that do ask the questions, that spend way more than 7 minutes with you … but at the same time the patient community, the advocacy community is going to be the solution to a lot of these systemic inequities.”
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