Lying in bed one evening in June 2023, Jenny Sheahan, a 22-year-old marketing student from Newmarket, Co. Cork, did a breast self-check. “I wasn’t even sure I was doing it properly,” says Jenny. “They tell you to be familiar with your own body to be able to notice changes, and I did think I felt a small lump on my right breast. I compared it to the other side, but because I’m so young, and oftentimes younger women’s breasts can be dense, I was unsure.”
She booked an appointment with her GP the next day. “I was told it was almost certainly a cyst and put on a waiting list for the Breast Clinic,” she says. However, she began to experience more symptoms. Her nipple was bleeding, and she went back to the GP. “I was prescribed several antibiotics, as they thought it might have been an infection, but the symptoms continued.” She visited another GP and got an urgent referral because of the risk of a more severe infection.
She saw a consultant in the Orchid Centre at CUH at the beginning of September. Because there was some hardness around her lump, a biopsy was ordered. “A few weeks and plenty of scans later, here I am, diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer and facing six rounds of chemo and 14 rounds of immunotherapy,” she says.
“If it hadn't been for my persistence and getting a second opinion, I would have waited to be seen by a specialist and might have had a much worse outcome.”
She is sharing her story because she wants to emphasise how important it is to be breast aware.
“People should do their self-checks – that’s the only reason I found mine. It was easy because the lump was bigger. My tumour is quite big, but it hasn’t spread. For many women when their tumour gets that big, it’s a different prognosis. For some, the lump might be small and easier to brush away – they might not get checked.” She’s glad that she continued to seek medical advice when she suspected something was wrong. “If it hadn't been for my persistence and getting a second opinion, I would have waited until November to be seen by a specialist and might have had a much worse outcome.”
Jenny wants to highlight that breast cancer can happen at any age. “I’m 22 and that’s quite young. If you find something, even if it’s just a cyst, at least you got it checked. It’s better than letting it go, and potentially being given far worse news.”
She has used the Irish Cancer Society’s Peer Support programme and found it very helpful. “Having that community there makes it a lot more normal. It’s like you’re living in an alternate reality when you receive a diagnosis; knowing that you’re not alone makes it easier to digest.”
“There’s an awful lot of comfort to be found in the cancer community. My story is rare at my age, but if by sharing my story I can help someone, that would be something.”
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