Breast cancer strikes women of all ages

disease does not discriminate, impacting older and younger patients


HOUSTON – It's estimated one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. The disease does not discriminate between the very young or the very old.

Michelle Mahmud and Jean Atchison are in two very different stages of their lives.

Michelle, 29, is a busy mom of three and Jean, 76, is a retired nurse.

Both were diagnosed with breast cancer at The Rose.

Michelle told Local 2, "I gave birth to my daughter in 2011 and I stopped breast feeding about 7 months after that and about 7 months after that, I found a small line on the outside of my breast."

Michelle's doctors thought it was mastitis, a breast infection commonly caused by breast feeding.

She said, "I felt shy to be the person who came in and said, 'I know you have a medical degree, but I'm pretty sure this is wrong' and it turned out I was right which is rare, but it happens."

A biopsy confirmed her fears.

At 29 years old, she was diagnosed with stage four inflammatory breast cancer.

She explained, "The cancer has spread to the bones at this point and now I am in the process of chemotherapy and I should be going to surgery after another 6 weeks or so."

Jean was referred to The Rose six years ago by the VA hospital after lapsing on getting her mammograms.

She laughed, "That's the easiest thing to forget."

Then 70, the radiologist told her the news.

He said, "It was so small, he couldn't even see it on the sonogram, it was so small and when he (magnified the image), he said, 'Here it is and it had its own blood supply and everything" and he said, 'You have cancer.' He said, 'You know, you probably wouldn't have felt this for another five years... It's so far back on your chest wall, you probably would've had it in your nose before you knew you had any cancer.'"

Today, Jean is a survivor and she's giving back to The Rose.

Jean explained, "For each year that I've been cancer free, I have given 100 dollars (to The Rose) for each year."

The Rose Founder and CEO Dorothy Gibbons said these women's stories are reminders for all women to get screened.

Gibbons said, "Our youngest breast cancer survivor is 19 years old and our oldest is 97. Don't put off taking care of me too. You need to take care of yourself."