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Health Team

Young breast cancer survivor stresses importance of early detection

Posted June 12, 2014 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2014 2:29 p.m. EDT

— For most women, breast cancer screening isn’t recommended until 40 years of age. However, the disease can occur at much younger ages.

At the age of 19, Samantha Callich received an early diagnosis thanks to her awareness of breast cancer.

Six years ago, while living in Florida, Callich had been getting hormone treatments for endometriosis. An often painful disorder, endometriosis causes tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus to grow outside of it.

“The hormones worked well for me,” Callich said. “Then about seven months into the hormone therapy, I started developing breast tumors.”

She found the tumors through a self-breast exam. Callich’s doctors knew tumors were a risk of hormone therapy, but felt that given her age, they were probably not cancerous.

“When it started growing in size, that’s when I was pressuring my doctors saying, ‘I think this is something more serious,’” Callich said.

A needle biopsy showed cancer.

“I went from being not so worried, thinking this was probably nothing, to, ‘You have to have major surgery in a week and lose basically most of your right breast, and you’re 19,’” Callich said.

Now 25, Callich and her dog, Killian, have been through a lot together.

As a walking companion and pet, Killian filled a great need.

“He’s been my bedside companion, and through all my surgery recoveries he was by my side,” Callich said.

After breast re-construction, and a few years of physical and psychological healing, Callich was ready to turn it all into a positive experience.

“Here I was finding a tumor on myself – diagnosing myself – and going to seek treatment,” Callich said. “I think that early detection – I mean that’s what saves lives, because if you aren’t doing those and if I had ignored it, like ‘this is probably nothing whatever,’ I don’t know where I would be.”