Hannah Green is only 26 years old and living her dream as a flight attendant for American Airlines. She has more appreciation for the life she’s living than most people because she is a rarity — a millennial who is already a breast cancer survivor.
“Breast cancer can come in all shapes, sizes and ages,” said Green, a Laurel native who now lives is Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. She learned that the hard way.
In May, Green found a large lump in her left breast and made an appointment with her gynecologist for an annual checkup. She was referred to another clinic to undergo an ultrasound, where the radiologist believed her lump to be “extremely dense breast tissue,” which is common in women her age. She was told to continue to monitor it and come back if anything changes.
“Luckily, when my OB/GYN at New Horizons Women’s Care got the report from Simon Med, she decided to send me to see a breast specialist, Dr. Edgar Hernandez of Ironwood Women’s Center. After my appointment with him, he sent me to get an MRI and, following my MRI results, he sent me to get my first biopsy, which later would result in my diagnosis, breast cancer.
“I was then immediately sent over to my oncologist, Dr. Clayton Polowy of Ironwood Cancer & Research Center. After my first meeting with Dr. Polowy, I was sent for a secondary biopsy, after which I was given my confirmed diagnosis.”
She was Stage 2A HER2-positive, a type of breast cancer that’s particularly aggressive.
A 12-centimeter tumor and a malignancy that had spread to the lymph nodes in her armpit needed to be taken out as soon as possible, and she underwent the surgery. She now goes for treatments that consist of six rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks, followed by six weeks of radiation five days a week.
Despite the dire news, keeping a positive attitude has been easy for Green.
“From the beginning, I put my faith in God and He gave me a peace of mind and of soul,” she said. “I feel oddly blessed that my amazing doctors were able to catch my cancer early, and although chemo is no walk in the park, I know that things could be worse and keeping a positive outlook makes this process seem to go by quicker.
“My best advice to other women would be to trust your gut. You aren’t ‘too young.’ If my OB/GYN and I would have listened to the first radiologist, my diagnosis could have been much worse.”
Green has such a positive attitude, she is making big plans for the future.
She is taking every step possible to ensure a shot at motherhood.
“I made the decision to freeze my eggs after doing research about breast cancer in young adults,” she said. “I learned that it is possible, through chemo treatments, that I could lower the chance of being able to conceive naturally. I have always wanted to have children, so I decided to go through with the IVF process.
“I am no specialist, but in layman’s terms, the process brings your body to the point that your eggs would be ready to become fertile. Through ultrasounds and blood work, the reproductive specialist would monitor my eggs, and once they were to the size they need to be, we proceeded with the extraction. The process was a success, and they were able to extract 16 eggs total.”
Less than 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women in their 20s or 30s, according to Healthline.com.
About 1 in 8 U.S. women (12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. Women are encouraged to visit a specialist for a checkup and mammogram during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
As of January 2019, there are more than 3.1 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment, according to breastcancer.org.