'You're never too young'
Because medical protocol doesn't require regular screenings of young women for breast cancer, delays in diagnosing can be a problem. Some medical providers may brush away patients' concerns about breast cancer because of their youth. One 29-year-old is spreading that message and reminding women that breast cancer doesn't always begin with a lump.
Meghan Malley and her husband, Mike, are shown at thier hown in Berkley, Michigan on September 24, 2011. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 and has recently finished a five-month round of chemotheraphy. She is starting a suport group for young adults with cancer. (Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
“As much as family and friends love and care for you and support you in every way, they don't really get it in the same way as the others with cancer get it.”
Hardy said numerous studies show the benefit of support groups.
“The quality of their life is better. They have fewer side effects. They share a lot of practical information, feel less alone, feel less frightened,” Hardy said.
Hardy counsels her Stage 4 patients to think of the diagnosis as a chronic illness rather than a death sentence.
“The encouraging thing is that over the last five or 10 years is that many new therapies have entered the field,” said Flaherty.
“We hope to see many in the next five or 10 years to personalize therapy better and for outcomes that are more favorable, even when they start out in an unfavorable circumstance.”
Meghan Malley has been blogging about her cancer experience since March at letsbeatthisthing.weebly.com.
Blogging, she says, is informative, therapeutic and connects her with family and friends who are rooting for her.
Blogs and personal websites help a patient's circle of extended caregivers cope, says Tufts University assistant professor Lisa Gualtieri, who is researching the potential health benefits of blogging.
“While we are still analyzing our survey data — the results suggest that some of the benefits that blogging about one's illness may provide are increased connection with others, decreased sense of isolation, the ability to make meaning out of the diagnosis of chronic illness, and increased sense of purpose and accountability to self and others,” said Gualtieri.
5 percent to 10 percent: In this many breast cancers, the warning signs may be a change in the feel of the breast or breast skin that becomes dimpled, puckered or reddened.