Komen for the Cure

Breast Cancer Can Strike Young Women

Posted May 10, 2007 4:43 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2007 4:20 p.m. EDT

— The majority of breast cancer occurs in post-menopausal women, but younger women can't afford to ignore the disease or put off screening.

Rex Cancer Center oncologist Dr. Lola Olajide said older women and those with a family history of cancer are at higher risk for the disease, but everyone is at some risk.

"Breast cancer can really afflict anyone -- any female, any male of any age. Generally, when patients are younger, there's a higher risk that it could be genetic predisposition, meaning that it could run in the family," Olajide said.

Clare Luffman, 35, doesn't have a family history of cancer, but she found a lump in her breast last summer during a monthly self-exam.

"I felt the lump and talked to my husband and my mom, and people thought it would be just a clogged milk duct or something like that," Luffman said.

But it turned out to be a fast-growing tumor. She underwent a mastectomy to remove it.

"Then we got the results back a week after the mastectomy, and (the tumor) was six-and-a-half centimeters. I mean, that's pretty big-sized. And they took out 12 lymph nodes, and 10 of those were already cancerous," she said.

Eric Luffman, her husband, said the year was the best of times and the worst of times for the couple. They celebrated the birth of their son, Dylan, shortly before Clare discovered her cancer.

"We just had a newborn baby -- he's now 1 -- and, you know, the last thing you think about is your wife having cancer," Eric Luffman said.

Clare Luffman followed surgery with rigorous chemotherapy, and she continues daily radiation treatments. She also is on an intravenous drug therapy to prevent cancer recurrence.

"I know that I'm going to see Dylan ... grow up to be a wonderful man, and Eric and I have plans," she said. "So, I know that we're going to be OK."