Local advocates urge young women to check for breast cancer

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New data released nationwide shows increases in breast cancer among young women and in Central Indiana. Doctors and advocates say it’s more important than ever to be vigilant.

Adrienne Harlow, a five-year breast cancer survivor, knows better than anyone that breast cancer can strike at any time. Harlow found a lump when she was 19 and spent months trying to get a proper diagnosis.

“I saw four different doctors. All of them told me that there was no way that I could have breast cancer because I was so young,” Harlow said.

It turned out that Harlow did have Stage One breast cancer. She pushed doctors to remove the lump and because of her persistence, likely saved her own life.

“They told me if I’d have waited six more months I’d have Stage Four breast cancer,” Harlow said.

Dr. Ruemu Birhiray at St. Vincent said this new data is not cause for alarm, but does suggest that women should pay attention to signs, no matter their age.

“Any woman can develop breast cancer, even very young women. Ignoring symptoms would be a mistake,” Birhiray said.

Advocates at the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Central Indiana agree.

“Most breast cancers are going down in terms of rates, but this is the one rate that’s going up,” Wendy Noe of the Komen Foundation said.

Suggestions for young women include knowing your risks, especially family history. The Komen Foundation also suggests clinical breast exams every two to three years, starting at age 20. Plus, women should get to know their own bodies and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Above all, Harlow said that getting another opinion is something all women shouldn’t be afraid to do. If you think something is wrong, don’t ignore it and don’t be afraid to take charge of your own health.

“Always be persistent because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here today,” Harlow said.

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