"Less than five percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under age 40." To senior Lorpu Kpadeh, this Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation statistic used to sound like a concern for the distant future. That was until she discovered an irregular lump last Thanksgiving.
Benign cysts like Kpadeh's have been on the rise in recent years, particularly among teens. Normal fibrocystic developments are to be expected in growing teenagers. According to the Komen Foundation, cysts usually occur as a result of breast tissue growth, and most girls notice these fluid-filled sacs in the days preceding and during their menstrual cycles. For many, these lumps are small and insignificant, but for some, like Kpadeh, the benign cysts require removal.
Both Kpadeh and senior Fumino Tamaki opted to have surgery when they were diagnosed. In most cases, cyst removal surgeries are simple procedures that involve local or general anesthesia, a post-op biopsy and, unfortunately, days or weeks of painful recovery. Kpadeh, an athlete, recalls that she could barely move or even sleep comfortably for days after her operation. Senior Madeline Fanning says that her cysts were removed through a noninvasive procedure called fine needle aspiration, which drains the cysts with a syringe.
Junior Lauren Wong was diagnosed with cysts nearly six months ago. She will return to her doctor for the recommended six-month checkup but does not intend to have surgery. "In my case, the cysts are not uncomfortable," she says.
Like Wong, Kpadeh says she was not particularly concerned when she discovered her cyst last fall. "I wasn't that scared because I couldn't think of anything it [could be]," she says. "It was more my mom who was worried."
But Tamaki recalls that her cyst diagnosis was a bit more unsettling. She was afraid that the growth she had removed in August 2001 was a precursor to cancer—and with good reason.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that while most breast cysts are benign and over half of all women get them, cysts that appear in younger people may increase their likelihood of developing breast cancer early. The Cleveland Clinic adds that large cysts that are unusual to a woman's normal growth may be a sign of atypical hyperplasia. This condition may increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer fivefold.
Diana Weber, a surgeon at Georgetown University Medical Center and Kpadeh's operating doctor, says diets high in fat and sugar cause teens to become overweight, increasing their risk of developing cancer. Also, the Cleveland Clinic reports that women who begin menstruating before the age of 12 have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Nearly three years ago, the Komen Foundation sponsored a breast health awareness rally, which instructed female Blazers on how to conduct breast self-exams and attempted to spread breast cancer awareness. The ACS emphasizes that if a girl is ever in doubt, her best bet is to alert her parents or her doctor to assess her risk early and avoid possible danger in the future.
L.A. Holmes. L.A. Holmes is a SENIOR!! ('03 Baby!) in the Communication Arts Program. L.A. currently reigns as Managing Opinions and Editorials Editor of <i>Silver Chips</i> with her dear friend, Rachel Yood, and she is the first in <i>Silver Chips</i> history to hold the hotly contested and … More »