Three-year-old Aleisha Hunter of Toronto, Canada recently got a clean bill of health after making a full recovery from breast cancer. She is the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with the disease.
According to the Daily Mail, Aleisha’s mom, Melanie, found a hard pea-sized lump in her then two-year-old daughter’s breast one day during a bath. She took her to the doctor and tests came out negative. But the lump continued to grow and by January 2009, it reached two centimeters in size and so painful, it interfered with Aleisha’s sleep.
Melanie was astonished upon hearing the news, “I couldn’t believe it when they told me what it was,” she added after further tests revealed it was breast cancer. “I was unbelievably shocked – stunned. I didn’t think a child that young could get breast cancer.”
Her surgeon, Dr. Nancy Down, was also stunned by the diagnosis, reports the Daily Mail:
“We were so shocked when the diagnosis was made. I’ve been dealing with breast cancer cases for 25 years and have never come across a patient this young. She is the youngest known case in the world.”
Aleisha immediately underwent a mastectomy. Her lymph nodes were thankfully clear so no chemotherapy or radiation was needed. She is doing very well now and is cancer free.
Prior to Aleisha’s bout with the disease, Hannah Powell-Auslam of California, was the youngest person to be diagnosed with breast cancer at age 10 in 2008.
Typically, girls this young aren’t diagnosed with breast cancer because they have very little breast tissue and they also haven’t hit puberty so sex hormones have yet to be activated. What will this mean for breast cancer diagnosis protocol?
One thing is for certain, girls need to learn about breast cancer from as soon as they are old enough to understand. They should also start doing breast self-exams as soon as possible. I always figured puberty was a good age to start, but this story reminds me that puberty is too late. In general, it’s vital to teach our children (boys and girls) that lumps of any kind should be shown to mom or dad, and pain should always be reported.
My mother is a five-year breast cancer survivor, so the subject has been a well spoken issue in our household. And still, if my daughter had a lump as a three-year-old, I wouldn’t immediately think breast cancer. I would probably assume that it was a gland problem or an underlying skin infection that grew deeper. Of course, I would take her to her pediatrician to rule anything out.
But how many pediatricians would routinely look for breast cancer as a possibility? Does this story mean it’s time they should start?
Image: World Wide Features