This headline from CNN's Health page, shocked the hell out of me this morning. I felt it should be shared, in the name of awareness and empowerment...
Aleisha Hunter is not your average 4-year-old. In fact, she's the youngest breast cancer survivor in Canada.
Not exactly the news her mother Melanie was expecting when she noticed a small lump in her daughter's right breast while bathing her when she was 2. Finally after trying to figure out what was causing Aleisha so much pain, at the age of 3, doctors diagnosed juvenile breast carcinoma, a very rare form of cancer.
"Certainly breast cancer has been reported in children and in adolescents, but it's very rare in prepubrescent girls," says Dr. Thomas Olson, medical director of the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service in Atlanta. Fewer than 5 percent of invasive breast cancers occur in women under age 40, according to The National Institute for Health. About 12.2 percent of women born today will get a breast cancer diagnosis at some time in their lives, according to The National Cancer Institute.
"There are many adult woman who have been tested and know that they carry a breast cancer gene mutation. I think it's important for them to realize that there is no evidence to support the risk of breast cancer in childhood for their daughters," says Dr. Sharon Plon, chief of Texas Children's Cancer Center Genetics Clinic.
Aleisha's physician, Dr. Nancy Down the deputy chief of surgery at North York General Hospital, decided on a radical double mastectomy for the 3- year-old because the tumor had grown quite large she told NBC. She didn't treat Aleisha with chemotherapy or radiation. "Whenever you have a rare case you go with a logical treatment. First you know you need surgery. The question is whether chemotherapy will add to that therapy, but you probably should not give chemotherapy unless you really think it will help," says Olson a pediatric oncologist.
Downs told NBC the advantage to this rare type of cancer it's slow growing, it doesn't spread as aggressively as other types and the prognosis is usually very good. She says Aleisha will have to get reconstructive surgery on her breast once she hits puberty. "If parents are suspicious of something unusual...you have to be your child's best advocate and it's important to follow-up if you are concerned about something in your child that you haven't seen resolved," says Plon.
In November Aleisha was honored as the 2010 Ambassador for Random Act of Kindness (RAK) Day in Cambridge and North Dumfries in Canada where she is from. The day encourages people to "pay it forward" and pay tribute to those who do kindnesses on that day and all yearlong.