Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2012 : Page 2

S P E CIAL AD VER TIS IN G S E CTI O N Facing Cancer Before Forty Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate based on age. by Carol Ann Donnelly Imagine being diagnosed with breast cancer a week before your wedding. Instead of your new life beginning with a honeymoon, it begins with doctor visits, surgery and weeks of cancer treatments. Or, imagine receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer four days before you give birth, and then being unable to care for your newborn, because you are too sick and weak from chemotherapy. Breast cancer awareness has come a long way, but people are still shocked to learn that young women get breast cancer, and the emotional and physical issues that these young women must deal with, on top of the cancer, differ from those that older women diagnosed with the disease face. In addition to battling a life threatening dis-ease, young women must contend with fertility issues, and whether or not to harvest their eggs; body image issues resulting from surgeries and scarring and possible mastectomies; employment issues, and how cancer can affect their jobs; and social issues, including dating after cancer. Until recently, support and help for these young women have been very limited. The fact is, 60 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are women over the age of sixty, but oncologists are see-ing younger women being diagnosed with the disease, and the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Founda-tion has seen a spike in the number of under-forty breast cancer survivors walk through its doors, including thirty-six-year-old Mandy Zito, who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in January 2009. Zito had a family history of breast cancer. Her mother was diagnosed in 1991, at age forty-four. Fortunately, her doctor began aggressively screening her for the disease at age twenty-eight, initially with an annual mammogram, but then added an annual MRI to the screening regimen two years later. Sipping on a kale and spinach shake, Zito recalls the months prior to her diagnosis. “Through a scheduling mishap, I didn’t have an MRI in 2008, and I didn’t think Grandmother’s Disease continued on page 100 » The fact is, 60 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are women over the age of sixty, but oncologists are seeing younger women being diagnosed with the disease. Photo courtesy Lisa Bruno, Owner, 64 Degrees Photography MANDY ZITO, The foundation’s young survivor program coordinator. 98 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY l OCTOBER 2012

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