mammogram of breast tissue

A 29-year-old woman with a lump in her breast said she was refused a mammogram because she was too young. She now has stage 4 cancer.

In 2018, Philecia La’Bounty found a small lump on her left breast. She was at the movies with her boyfriend, Brent Maggard, when she adjusted her sports bra and noticed the anomaly. Later, Maggard agreed that the lump felt different than the rest of her breast tissue, as she explained in a story-time TikTok. However, she didn’t have health insurance at that point, so she went to a free clinic. The ultrasound came back clean and the doctors said the lump was just a benign cyst. But this wasn’t reassuring to La’Bounty who asked the doctor to put in a request for a mammogram. That request was denied — twice.

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Refused a Mammogram 

At that time, La’Bounty was 29 years old and healthy with no family history of breast cancer. She worked as a model, often traveling internationally, and did CrossFit regularly. “I had perfect blood work, no other symptoms, no other masses, so they denied any other treatment, told me I was too young to have breast cancer, that I was healthy; it was just a cyst and come back if it bothered me,” La’Bounty said. [1]

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@philecialabounty

Misdiagnosed lump that turned into stage 4 breast cancer #cancertok #breastcancer #stage4cancer

♬ original sound – Philecia

Over the next eight months, the lump grew to 8 centimeters. It had become noticeable in the form-fitting dresses she wore when modeling at car shows. She went back to the clinic. During the visit, the doctors sent her into emergency ultrasounds and mammograms. The technician working on her kept on leaving the room; La’Bounty assumed she was consulting with other doctors. “That’s when I knew it was really bad.” 

After an MRI, a PET scan, and follow-up biopsies, La’Bounty was officially diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. It had spread to the sternum, lungs, and lymph nodes. “My heart sank. I was scared to lose my life, my family, my boyfriend,” she said. “I was terrified to die.

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According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer screening with mammograms is recommended for women aged 45, although some can choose to begin at 40. (However, some women should begin yearly screenings around age 30 if they are at high risk, like if they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or a close relative with it.) [2] However, 9% of all new cases in the United States are women under 45. And while genetics do play a role, 87% of women with breast cancer don’t have direct relatives with the disease. [3]

Read: ‘My Daughter’s Rare Disease Was A Mystery For Years. Here’s How We Finally Got A Diagnosis’

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Chemotherapy for Life

La’Bounty endured six months of IV chemotherapy, including a round of the “red devil” treatment. The drug had earned its name for its toxicity and red hue. When she was on it, “I couldn’t even swallow my own spit.” Ever since she’s been on oral chemo treatment she takes over a five-week cycle. “Every five to six weeks, I feel like actual garbage,” she said. 

A recent PET scan showed no sign of cancer. But it’s likely La’Bounty will have to stay on chemo for the rest of her life to keep the disease at bay. She would also require regular blood work and scans. But that’s only part of her prevention. She had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent the disease from reappearing due to hormones. That is also why she takes hormone blockers, which brought her into early menopause.

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Before her first round of chemotherapy, La’Bounty was watching an informational video that mentioned that the treatment could make her infertile. She “freaked out” and confronted her oncologist who said, “I’m trying to save your life. I don’t have time to discuss every option.

After that first chemo treatment, she found a new doctor who allowed her a few weeks to freeze her eggs before resuming a less-toxic type of cancer. But when she and Maggard want to start a family, they will need a surrogate because pregnancy hormones would be too dangerous for her. This was “devastating” for La’Bounty. “I’ve always wanted to carry my own children. That’s something I’m still in therapy for today.” 

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If I can save one life…

Today, La’Bounty is 35 and she publicized her story to bring awareness to other young women who may be at risk for breast cancer. She also encourages them to advocate for themselves when they feel something is wrong with their health. “Had I seen someone that I related to, that was posting about this, I would have taken my situation more seriously,” she said. “I would have fought harder. I would have found a way to pay for a mammogram. If I can save one life, that’s worth everything I post.”

Research shows that women are at a higher risk of “medical gaslighting,” which occurs when medical professionals are dismissive of symptoms, deny testing or treatments, and fundamentally misdiagnose them. Women are “not being believed, and that’s causing significant delays in care, misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, ineffective treatment, and ineffective triaging,” said Dr. Garima Sharma, an internal-medicine physician and cardiologist at Johns Hopkins. “Women are paying a very heavy price.[4]

Keep Reading: ‘I was going crazy’: Woman’s mystery symptoms lead to startling diagnosis

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Sources

  1. “Woman Says Doctors Refused Mammogram Before Finding Stage 4 Breast Cancer.Newsweek. Samantha Berlin. August 19, 2022
  2. “American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer.American Cancer Society. January 14, 2022
  3. “Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Age, Genetics & Others.Cedars Sinai
  4. “A 29-year-old woman with a lump in her breast said she was refused a mammogram because she was too young. She now has stage 4 cancer.Insider. Anna Medaris. August 18, 2022
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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