In February, she discovered a hard lump on her breast and experienced fainting, and feverish spells. Two months later, in April, after consulting a specialist, accountant Oh Mei Qi was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She’s only 29.
“I’m anaemic, so I never thought these ailments (fainting spells and fever) were pointing to breast cancer,” says Mei Qi, who’s currently undergoing chemotherapy.
“I’m barely 30... I never thought I’d have a tumour nearly the size of my whole breast, and be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.”
Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for about 10 to 15 per cent of all breast cancers. It’s a type of breast cancer that does not have any of the three receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells.
Mei Qi adds: “I was really feeling down and emotional. At times, I cried myself to sleep. I worried about my work, my family...”
Mei Qi has been going through chemotherapy treatments for five months. The tumour has to be shrunk before she undergoes a mastectomy. Although Mei Qi had come across the breast self-examination information, she admits that she didn’t take it too seriously.
“It was during one of the rare occasions where I was casually examining my breasts when I discovered the lump,” she recalls. “But I didn’t think too much about it. I thought (then) that breast cancer only affected women in their 40s and 50s.”
This is one of the common misconceptions that many young women have, resulting in more being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, says breast surgeon Dr Esther Chuwa of Esther Chuwa Breast care.
She adds: “Many are unaware of the severity of breast cancer, and how cancer cells can also form in younger women. In the past, breast cancer was associated with postmenopausal women.”
Like Mei Qi, marketer Yvonne Chua, 30, didn’t expect to be diagnosed with HER2-positive stage two breast cancer in April last year. The HER2-positive breast cancer is a result of the presence of a protein called the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells.
Yvonne shares: “I had just given birth, and as I was breastfeeding, I thought the hard lump in my breast was due to mastitis. So I scheduled a visit to my gynaecologist.”
Last May, she received the bad news when her breast surgeon (who was overseas) texted her to speak in person.
Yvonne remembers: “It was Mother’s Day week when my doctor told me it was cancer. Everything was a blur to me... with so much information to digest and options to consider. Despite so, one thing was very clear to me – I have to get myself ‘fixed’ if I want to live and grow with my family.”
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