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Raleigh woman uses her breast cancer diagnosis to save lives

One Raleigh woman is working to raise awareness about breast cancer in young women, in hopes of saving a life.

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Mikaya Thurmond
, WRAL anchor/reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — One Raleigh woman is working to raise awareness about breast cancer in young women in hopes of saving a life. While most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 or older, 250,000 women under the age of 40 are living with the disease.

Jen Hoverstad is a wife, a mother of two, a gym lover and a Wolfpack fan. But in March, the Raleigh attorney got a label she never expected.

"I had finished a hot yoga class, happened to be taking a shower and noticed a skin discoloration on my left breast," Hoverstad said.

While the discoloration was abnormal, it wasn't until she discovered a lump that she knew she had to see a doctor.

Days after her self-exam, Hoverstad got her official diagnosis.

"I was Stage 3 breast cancer," she said.

At 34 years old, Hoverstad immediately went into cancer treatment, which drastically changed her day-to-day life.

"I couldn't pick up either of my kids for three weeks," Hoverstad said. "So that meant I couldn't put them in car seats. I couldn't get them out of the crib. I couldn't get them in and out of high chairs. And it's those little things you really take for granted."

Doctors at the Duke Cancer Center say younger patients are being affected by more aggressive forms of breast cancer – all because those patients don't notice the symptoms early.

"Younger women, when they are diagnosed, present with larger tumors [and] are more likely to have lymph node involvement, in part because they are not undergoing routine screening and in part because their tumors unfortunately tend to be more aggressive," said Dr. Rachel Greenup of the Duke Cancer Institute.

Hoverstad is a part of the less than 5 percent of breast cancer patients under the age of 40. With no family history or previous health issues, doctors say she is an anomaly.

Now, she's warning other young women to stay vigilant.

"Just pay attention to your bodym" Hoverstad said. "I think, when we start to notice the little nuances and the little changes and we start to ask questions, that's when we find things out."

By asking questions, Hoverstad, who began radiation treatment Wednesday, said she hopes that another young life will be saved.

Women of all ages are encouraged to do self-exams especially if there is a hereditary cancer syndrome.​


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