Woman Finds Breast Cancer While Pregnant, Warns About Symptom

Last summer, the day after Addison gave birth to her baby boy in April, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It seemed impossible. She was 32 years old, healthy, and experiencing symptoms of illness as a nurse in an oncology department in suburban Atlanta.

“I was devastated.

“How long can you live?” I asked. Because I didn’t know what the prognosis would be. I just had this baby and was going to breastfeed and now you say I can’t breastfeed. ”

April Addison gave birth to son Ashton on June 27, 2022. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer the next day.Courtesy April Addison

Now, Addison and her doctors encourage women of all ages to get tested if they see or feel changes in their breasts. Dr. Amelia Zernak has been treating young patients in their early twenties.

“At 32, it’s not unheard of, although unusual, for someone like April to come with a breast mass,” said Zernack, a medical oncologist at North Side Hospital in Atlanta. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

About 1 in 3,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy, she adds.

breast changes

Looking back, Addison spotted the warning signs about six months into her pregnancy. It was a pea-sized lump that appeared on her left breast and felt like a “little knot” right next to her nipple. She thought her body was ready to produce milk.

Addison didn’t care about breast cancer at her age, so she didn’t tell her obstetrician anything about the change.

“Women expect their breasts to change during pregnancy… (so) it’s easy to see that someone might not be thinking, ‘I need to check this out’ anytime soon.” ‘ says Zernak.

But eight months into her pregnancy, Addison felt a sharp, “exhausting” pain in her chest for 30 minutes and brought it up with a mysterious knot at her final OB appointment.

Although most breast cancer patients do not feel pain, Zernak said, a doctor should evaluate breast pain, especially if it is related to a lump.

Addison was scheduled for a breast ultrasound the next day, which revealed a mass near her nipple and three enlarged lymph nodes in her armpit. A biopsy followed.

Addison gave birth to a healthy baby boy on June 27, 2022. The next day, a biopsy revealed he had stage 2 breast cancer. She had to start her chemotherapy two weeks after her.

“In my head I have to go through chemo so I have to be strong. Mentally I have to be ready because I want to be here for my kids. .” – the eldest son.

Addison suffered hair loss from chemotherapy, but she says she survived the treatment. "Pretty OK."
Addison suffered hair loss from chemotherapy, but said the treatment was “pretty good.”Courtesy April Addison

From nurse to patient

She was treated at Northside Hospital Forsythe in Cumming, Georgia, where she worked as an oncology nurse.many of her colleagues came to the infusion center When she started chemotherapy to cheer her up, it empowered her.

“I did pretty well. I was able to complete the treatment without any problems,” recalls Addison.

Being a patient was a difficult transition for a nurse. She said she lost control and people had a hard time caring for her. Addison knows firsthand the pain of placing a port and the isolation of being inside a noisy CT scanner.

Addison says she is healing well after her breast surgery and reconstruction.
Addison says she is healing well after her breast surgery and reconstruction.Courtesy April Addison

In November 2022, she underwent a bilateral reconstructive mastectomy and chose to remove both breasts to reduce the chance of recurrence.

The surgery doesn’t affect the risk that the cancer could spread to other parts of the body, but it lowers the risk of getting a second breast cancer, says Zelnak.

Addison is currently undergoing six weeks of radiation therapy and will be on hormone therapy for years.

The Addison family includes, left to right, mom April, 3-year-old Aiden, baby Ashton, and dad Leo.
The Addison family includes, left to right, mom April, 3-year-old Aiden, baby Ashton, and dad Leo.Courtesy April Addison

“Call me if you feel something.”

Still, the nurse wonders why the ordeal happened to her. Her genetic testing showed she had no genetic mutations known to increase her risk of breast cancer. Studies show that about 85% of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease.

“For many of our breast cancer patients, we just don’t know[why],” Zernak says.

“The most common risk factors for breast cancer are being female and being older, but for a very young patient like April with no family history, there is no clear explanation.”

Bottom Line: Women of all ages who feel a lump in their breast, including women who haven’t had a mammogram, should be screened, say oncologists. Be aware of other potential warning signs, such as swelling of the throat. Be your own advocate and bring it up to your doctor.

“If you feel something, say something,” Addison says.

She is recovering well and is grateful for the support of her family. Her children motivate her to get better.

“The look on their faces makes me feel like I have to do this for my baby,” she says. will do.”

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