Cancer Disguised as Blessings

“In high school and all throughout my childhood, becoming a doctor was an aspiration I chose purely based on my interest in human physiology and biology. However, towards graduation, the battle against cancer became personal.”

In her own words:

Kash Manawis, college student, cancer survivor

Though it seems cliché, I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was very young. This career choice made the most sense to me, as I have loved human physiology ever since the fifth grade, when I volunteered to stay after school to make a diagram that my teacher would use to introduce my classmates to the respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems (I was very proud).

Additionally, service work and volunteering is a joy of mine, and I have always thought that service to others is important to a well-rounded life, because it teaches selflessness and love. During high school I continued to volunteer regularly through various clubs, and to do well in science. Therefore, as I grew up, this kind of career made more sense to me. Though I am young, I have already made the pivotal decision in my life to become a pediatric oncologist.

However, towards high school graduation, the battle against cancer became personal.

I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on September 24th, 2013 when I was 17 years old. Though this situation brought much despair, I also saw my diagnosis as an opportunity to learn about human physiology with my own body as a specimen.

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I needed eight months of chemotherapy to treat my cancer. In my case, I was required to stay in a room with a special air filter, and many people and things such as real flowers were not allowed to come inside because I was so fragile. I could only go home for three days at a time, and was bed-ridden for treatment a month at a time. If I were to have left the hospital because I was stubborn (feeling as though I was strong enough), I was told I would not last ten minutes outside of the hospital’s doors without needing to go to the ER.  It’s sad, I know, but this experience taught me determination and the power of a positive mind.

Despite my illness, I was extremely positive throughout my whole experience with cancer because I dreamt of becoming a doctor. Because of my aspirations, I found that the opportunity to observe hospital work helped me to overcome the grief of my situation. My doctors considered my enthusiasm for their work, and I was allowed into the hospital’s laboratory to see a sample of my bone marrow from my biopsies, and the myeloid blasts that seized my normal teenager life. Amused, yet spiteful, I became determined after seeing my body’s opponents.

During chemotherapy, I learned to calculate my absolute-neutrophil count, to determine the strength of my immune system. I told my doctors not to hesitate with terminology, and this way, I kept the gears in my brain working even though I could not go to school. My passion for learning, and keen sense of compassionate care, inspired student nurses who assessed me. I believe that I became inspirational when I became passionate.

My community rallied around me during my illness. I received so much love during my battle with cancer, and my struggle inspired many friends and family. My high school family organized a “Zumba-thon” to fundraise for my medical expenses, and this event was broadcast on the radio. A childhood friend dedicated an event for cancer awareness to me. Some friends even shaved their heads!

The potential that my situation had to bring people together and influence them to value their health made me proud of the adversity that I faced.

I made friends with many of the children at Kapiolani Hospital, who became the source of my passions. I was one of the oldest patients that regularly lived in the hospital’s Wilcox unit due to treatment, where I worked to recover and faced life-threatening blood infections which prolonged my hospital stays. As I got closer to the staff, doctors and children, I was introduced to the patients who shared the same diagnosis as me. Sadly, I met mostly babies. I played regularly with these children, and witnessed them play, in pain, and ultimately pass away. I have heard more prayers within the hospital’s walls than in my church. Despite the sadness, there is still a love for life in the eyes of all the heroic children I’ve met and played with. Because they smiled brightly, they left me with no reason to be sad for myself. I want to help them fight for that love for life.

But before I could help anyone, I knew I needed to complete undergraduate college.

I had enough of the necessary credits to graduate by the end of my junior year due to accelerated classes. However, being diagnosed with cancer truly inconvenienced me, as I was hospitalized for cancer during the most crucial time to apply for college (the fall portion of the school year in September and November).

Every time I was well enough, I got up to write my college essays. I had a list of about 15 colleges to which I wanted to apply, and I knew everything they needed from me.  My high school’s college counselor was nice enough to fill all of the basic information for my applications, but I was responsible for writing all of my personal statements. I put all the questions in a document, answered them all, organized them, and sent them back to my high school counselor. It was difficult because I was constantly too fatigued to focus on a large amount of writing in a small amount of time, and my mind was often cloudy.  However, I remained mentally strong for myself, and my future, which I believed in with all my heart.

Knowing that one day I am going to die, coming to terms with my mortality, eliminated my ability to believe I have something to lose. Because I don’t have a lot that I can lose and everything is precious to me. To love, hope, and dream as you please is a luxury. It is a luxury you can afford with good health, and time. My disguised blessing from cancer was learning this wisdom. Cancer also taught me to be unafraid to set my heart out in continuing to do all the things I love and to be with people who I loved, to love my life, to have hope, and most importantly, to have a dream.

These memories, and disguised blessings from my cancer, confirmed my future path in medicine by giving my career goals passion. During my battle I have acquired knowledge, courage, character and a dream.

I plan to return to Hawaii one day to raise my future family, and take care of my grandparents. More specifically, I want to return to Kapiolani Hospital as a pediatric oncologist in their Wilcox unit, where I fought my own battle with cancer, to help the children who are suffering the same way I suffered.

Kashannah-Bee Bautsita Manawis (Kash) is an incoming sophomore at the University of San Diego, where she is studying pre-medIn addition to her rigorous studies, Kash keeps busy on campus as president of the Pacific Islander’s club, recruiter for the Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization, and in her church. Her lemonade stand fundraiser at USD’s annual Changemaker festival was a success last year, and she plans to host it again this fall. Kash received a perpetual (4 year) scholarship in 2014 from Cancer for College.

We thank you, Kash, for sharing your story here, and we commend you for your perseverance through cancer and your passion to achieve your goals. We can’t wait to see you in your doctor’s coat one day!

The Gift of Life: 30 Years Cancer-Free

A Guest Post by Joy Anderson

When your children are born, you count their fingers and toes. After the pediatrician examines them and tells you they are healthy you breathe a sigh of relief. You don’t think about something going wrong with them later on.

In July of 1982 our perfect life fell apart. I had just given birth to our third child. Our oldest daughter was almost six and our son, Gary, was almost three. We had rented a house at the beach and were preparing for a family getaway. Just days before departure, I noticed some large bruises on Gary’s leg, and he just didn’t look quite right to me. I didn’t want to have our vacation interrupted with a trip to the doctor so I took him to his pediatrician. I expected to be given a bottle of antibiotics and sent back home.

When a second doctor joined our pediatrician in the exam room, alarms started going off in my head. I called my husband at work to come join us. It was then the doctors told us Gary might have leukemia or aplastic anemia. They wanted him seen immediately at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. It was so urgent that they suggested we go by ambulance. For whatever reason, we chose instead to drive together, as a family.

With three small children in tow we took off for the hospital, and things started moving really fast. You see rooms filled with very sick children. Until a few minutes ago, these were other people’s children. Now one of them was yours. You start asking yourself what could have caused  this. I hadn’t taken any drugs during my pregnancy, and Gary was delivered by natural childbirth. Maybe, at 33, I was too old? Could it have been the electrical box close to our property? You can’t believe your child could be this sick. You’re mad it happened to your child. It would have been easier to accept if it had been me and not my child who had his entire life ahead of him.

After three days of painful tests on my sweet boy, the hospital staff took us to a room and sat us down at a large table. I will never forget that room. Because that’s where they told us that Gary had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and that, even with three years of chemotherapy, Gary had just a 50 percent chance of survival. They threw out other frightening terms like “cranial radiation” and a whole list of drugs that would soon be coursing through his little body.

None of it meant anything at the time. All we heard were the percentages. Fifty percent chance of survival. We desperately hoped and prayed that Gary would be in the right 50 percent.

Joy and her husband Karl, after much deliberation, started Gary’s treatment at City of Hope, and their young family began the process of settling in to a new normal.

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So Gary started his three years of chemotherapy– still a clinical trial — with weekly hospital visits for chemo injections and oral medications which I would administer at home. He also had six scheduled, week-long hospital stays. Despite having other young kids to care for, these hospitalizations were surprisingly easy to handle. Grandma would watch Gary’s sisters in the day, while I stayed with Gary in his hospital room. I could help him through his vomiting, give him a bath, and countless other little things a mom wants to do for her sick child. At night, my husband would sleep in Gary’s hospital room and then go to work in the morning, so that I could be home with the girls.

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Following these weeks, Gary’s white blood cell count would drop so low that he would often be back in the hospital with a fever. Sometimes it would be pneumonia. We were especially frightened when he contracted spinal meningitis while on treatment.

During these three years of chemotherapy, Gary remained in remission, and we tried to keep life as normal as possible. Gary attended nursery school when he was healthy, and his older sister stayed in soccer and ballet. Gary was six years old and starting first grade when his treatment ended. I was looking forward to a normal life for him free of drugs and hospital stays, but I guess I knew something was up because I remember breaking into tears as he blew out the six candles on his birthday cake.

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Gary’s cancer returned, and he was categorized as an “on-treatment relapse”, since the cancer-fighting drugs were still in his system. Doctors told the Andersons that without a bone marrow transplant, Gary would likely not survive the year. Unbelievably, Gary’s two sisters, ages three and nine, were both perfect bone marrow matches. 

I knew we were in the wrong 50 percent. It was really hard to tell Gary that the bad cancer cells were back. He had new friends and loved playing soccer. All that was to come to an end. But God blessed us with a real trooper, and Gary took it all in stride. In December 1985, at six years of age, Gary had his bone marrow transplant from his nine-year-old sister. Even though his treatments were rough and he spent much of his seven week hospital stay in complete isolation, his biggest worry was that Santa Claus wouldn’t know that he was sleeping in the hospital. (Gary did get out of isolation before Christmas and needless to say, Santa found his hospital room. I don’t know where all the gifts came from; they weren’t the ones I had purchased.)

It has been 32 years since Gary was diagnosed with ALL and almost 30 years since his bone marrow transplant. Gary’s cancer has not returned, and he has been able to lead a completely normal life.

At the beginning of our plight I cried because I thought Gary may never get to go to preschool or start kindergarten or learn to ride a bike. I would get a lump in my throat every time he would say, “when I grow up I want to be…” I would drive by our junior high school I’d wonder if he would ever have the opportunity to be a student there.

After so much distress and worry, I can say with tremendous relief and gratitude that Gary has met so many milestones that I feared would not be in his future: making the high school honor roll; graduating from UCSB, finding work in a meaningful career. He’s remained an avid surfer for years and even completed six marathons and ten half-marathons. Just this March, Gary married Becca, the love of his life, and they are embarking on the next season of their lives together.

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People often say to me that those years during Gary’s treatment must have been terrible and yes, they were very scary. They were something I wish he never would have had to go through, and an experience I would wish on absolutely no one. But they were also good years too, for the simple reason that I became very close to my son, and our family, tightly bonded to each other.

Last month, watching Becca walk down the sand at their beach wedding, Gary waiting for her at the altar, I couldn’t help but be filled with swirling emotions, like any mother. It turns out that Gary was in the right 50 percent after all.

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Gary Anderson, shown above with his parents, received a Cancer for College scholarship in 1998. We are enormously proud of him and all he has accomplished.

“Nothing, not even cancer, is going to stop me.”

“My dream has always been to attend college,” wrote 19-year-old Maine resident Dalton Bouchles last year in his Cancer for College scholarship application. “However, once I found out I had cancer, that dream became blurry.”
At age 18, Dalton was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a brain tumor which develops near the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor but suffered many physical and cognitive impairments from the procedure.
“At this point in my life, I was unsure as to whether or not I would be able to attend college like I had originally planned,” Dalton continued.
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But Dalton would not be deterred, not even by something as ominous as brain cancer. Following is his story in his own words.
I worked very hard in high school to prepare myself for college. I maintained an A average, participated in many school activities such as Key Club: as a member, president, and Lieutenant Governor for my division. I was a member of Boys’ State, National Honor Society and a Student Representative for the MSAD #52 School Board during my senior year. For sports, I was a member of the golf team and enjoyed two years participating on the soccer team. I am very proud to be a 2012 graduate, ninth in my class at Leavitt Area High School.
In the Fall of 2012, just three weeks before I was due to head out to Worcester Polytechnic Institute for my first year of college, I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, a craniopharyngioma. How the diagnosis came to be was through a routine eye exam, which showed swelling on my right optic nerve. An MRI the next day confirmed the eye doctor’s suspicions and revealed the tumor which attached itself to my pituitary gland. The surgeon gave me four days to get my things in order and then I was in the hospital having brain surgery to remove the large tumor from the center of my brain and save my life. Those four days between diagnosis and surgery were filled with shock and fear. I knew from this day forward that my next four academic years as well as my future life plans were about to change.

Surgery did not go as planned. Due to the tumor’s size and location it created surgical complications, resulting in a two month hospital stay. Each day held many challenges for me, which included occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. While all of my friends went on to college and started the next chapter in their future, I have spent the last two years of my life in rehabilitation and recovery. Because of the type of tumor, its size and where in the brain it was located, the surgery has left me with substantial physical and neurological impairments. Most significant are my vision loss and cognitive challenges. I still have all my marbles, but I have to work harder to process and organize information. I lost over 80% of my vision and now I am visually impaired and partially sighted, which has left me unable to drive, limiting my mobility.

Due to the tumor and its effects, it has made Worcester Polytechnic Institute no longer a viable option. The cognitive impairments now limit my ability to attend school as a full-time student. I am now working on a degree two classes at a time, allowing me to reach my dream of going to college. Although the tumor has slowed my education, it will not stop it. Along the way, I have remained a very positive person and a hard worker.

I have always felt that education was a top priority in life. It opens up many doors and possible careers that would have not otherwise been available. I want to go to college, receive an education and walk through one of those doors myself. Nothing, not even cancer, is going to stop me. I pushed myself hard in therapy from day one in order to get as close as I can to where I was before surgery and get back on the college track. The tumor was a roadblock that I overcame and now I am where I am supposed to be, heading back to college.

Nothing, not even cancer, is going to stop me.

Dalton is currently attending Central Maine Community College and enrolled macroeconomics and critical thinking. We applaud your fighting spirit and determination, Dalton, and wish you the very best of luck in all that you do!

Balancing College with Chemotherapy

With his kind face, quiet demeanor and soft-spoken ways, one might never guess the determination and strength at the core of Jose Guevara. Jose is young, just 19 years old, but having already battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia twice, he is wise. And, despite his twice monthly chemotherapy treatments, Jose is happily back at Cal State Los Angeles, carrying 12 units after his cancer relapse forced him to take a year-long break from his studies.

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Jose Guevara ~ 19 years old ~ Two-time A.L.L. survivor (ages 15 and 19)

Sophomore, California State University Los Angeles ~ Studying Political Science and Spanish

“There are certain times when you have to step back and be ok with that. You have to take care of your health. School is going to be there, it will wait for you.”

Reprinted here with permission, are excerpts from Jose’s story in his own words, written in January 2014.  

I was not able to cry when the doctor told me about my condition. It was not until I was alone that the magnitude of the news hit me and I cried uncontrollably for the rest of the night. During my second semester as an eleventh grader I received news that made every single problem I had ever complained about very insignificant. What started as a six-hour wait in the emergency room turned into a 9-month stay in the hospital. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I felt like life had left my body and became an empty shell in bed. I became a statistic. It was horrible. I had no control of my body and was even more dependent on my parents than I have ever been. I tried to keep myself together. I always had a positive attitude on life despite the challenges placed in front of me, but this time as hard as I tried I could not get the courage to get myself together.

I can recall many times not being able to get up and feeling so weak that all I wanted to do was sleep….I was really tired of not being able to hold down a meal, and many may think otherwise but the loss of hair on a male is still a big deal, at least it was for me. When I would look in the mirror I could tell the difference, I saw a Jose I did not know but it was whom I had become because of the treatment and that killed me inside. My smile would rarely come even though I  must admit the nurses did their best to keep me positive.

The moment that changed everything for me was when my dad talked to me and said, “son as much as I love you if you give up now you might as well tell all these people to stop wasting their time, and tell me to start planning your funeral. Is this how you really want to end your last days on earth, in a hospital bed?” I was dumbfounded. I held back my tears, I hugged him and knew from that day on I had to fight. I pushed myself to return to school only after a few short months off the intense chemotherapy and successfully completed with all A’s my course work by the end of the summer. I knew at this point that I am capable of overcoming any obstacles and my senior year I was ready for the challenge of Advance Placement classes, and college. I applied to four CSU schools and had no issue getting in, until the cost of school came in was when I realized I could only afford CSULA. However CSULA has been the best choice I could ever have made. I have been successful thus far academically at this school. I have finished all my remedial classes and although I had to take a leave of absence to deal with what I thought at the time would be my last setback in my leukemia. To my surprise all the work I did in high school helped me earn enough credits to be considered at second-year student. In 2013 I hit remission with much excitement, as I believed I was just closing that chapter of my life.

My post-leukemia life was looking better than ever and I was hopeful of a bright future, however on December 18, 2013 I relapsed and have started the nightmare once again. This time the doctors said I need a transplant, my spirits are up but what keeps me going is the hope that I will be back in school by Fall 2014 ready once again to work harder than ever, academically and by bringing awareness to childhood/young adult leukemia.

– – –

Despite being on the bone marrow registry, Jose did not find a match for the transplant he needed. Doctors decided on chemotherapy again for his treatment, which he receives twice a month. This will be his schedule for the next year — classes and chemotherapy — which he is approaching with a very positive attitude. Jose is balancing music and political science courses with what he must do for his recovery and health.   

At the end of my phone call with Jose, I wanted to express my gratitude for the time he spent talking with me about his story. “Thank you, Jose,” I said to him, “I know your life is very busy.” He didn’t hesitate with his reply, “yes, but in a good way.”

Jose is one of three 2014-2015 Cancer for College scholarship recipients returning to school this winter after cancer forced a deferment from their studies this fall. We are honored to be able to support these resilient and determined cancer survivors in their pursuit of a college degree.

Thriving after Surviving: Young Brain Cancer Survivors

Astrocytoma. Pineoblastoma. Medulloblastoma. Germinoma. Terrifying words, all of which translate into terrifying diagnoses: brain tumors.

Battling cancer is something a young, vibrant kid, working hard to find their place in the world, should not have to deal with. Cancer in kids is unfair and cosmically wrong. When that diagnosis is brain cancer, the road to survival may seem impossible. But not to the 10 young brain cancer survivors who received a 2014 Cancer for College scholarship.

Out of 74 Cancer for College scholarships awarded this year, 10 of those were to young men and women who battled brain cancer. What resilience and strength of character it must take to survive such adversity and to come through with the drive and motivation to jump fully back into life.

Below are faces — healthy and vibrant — of some of those tenacious collegiates.

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Bailey Quishenberry was diagnosed with an astrocytoma brain tumor at age 14. Bailey had a complicated road to recovery, which included two brain surgeries.   One of Bailey’s nurses shares a story which defines Bailey’s compassion and character: “Bailey was despondent to learn that many of the children around her spent much of their lives in the hospital. She asked all of her friends and relatives to donate new stuffed animals to the children’s hospital, and more than 300 people brought comfort toys to be given to the ER and to recovering children in other units.  She was too ill to help personally, but she found a way to make a difference even from her hospital bed.” Bailey is now a freshman at UC Riverside studying environmental science.

Molly Modeste-Martin survived a pylocytic astrocytoma — twice. She was diagnosed when she was just three years old, and again when she was 12. Despite multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, Molly continued her love of sports, including basketball and track, and has bravely shared her story in order to raise funds for cancer research. Molly’s doctor writes, “She has required extensive therapy over the years including multiple surgeries and chemotherapy…despite all of that, Molly has evolved to be a brilliant and charming young woman.” Molly is now a freshman at Santa Clara University majoring in communications and public relations

Megan Richards was diagnosed with a non-germinamatous stem cell brain tumor at nine years old. “The tumor itself wasn’t rare,” Megan tells us, “but the location of it was. The physicians had only seen it once before, and it was in an adult not a child.” But after intensive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, Megan survived her tumor and is now a freshman at Gardner Webb University working toward her nursing degree. “She is eager to make a difference in her world,” writes one of Megan’s nurses.

Joshua Walker is also a two-time survivor. He was diagnosed with a germinoma brain tumor at five years old and again at 16. “The treatment for this cancer was horrendous,” writes his doctor. “Yet, through all of this Josh remained an example of the best of his generation.” The oldest of five children, Josh, at 17 years old, used his Make-a-Wish to give his family an unforgettable Christmas. “I would be their secret Santa!” he tells us. Now a freshman at Brigham Young University studying engineering, Josh shares, “I am just about to finish my first semester of college! Life is good!”

Samantha Loch survived a medulloblastoma when she was 15, had an intensive treatment and a difficult recovery. “Sammy is truly remarkable in the amazing way she has met all the unexpected challenges in her life,” writes one of Sammy’s doctors. Sammy herself told us recently, “this is the first year since my diagnosis in 2009 that my life has not been dictated by disease, treatment, pain or surgeries. “It has been a wonderful year full of fun, excitement, learning and adventure.” Sammy is a junior at Western Washington University majoring in sociology and psychology.

Cancer for College is so proud and inspired by Bailey, Molly, Megan, Joshua, Sammy, and all of our scholarship recipients.

Wishing everyone a safe, joyous and healthy holiday season.

Cancer for College is a non-profit organization which provides college scholarships to cancer survivors. We are accepting applications for scholarships for the 2015-16 school year through January 31, 2015. Please click here for application details.

Men’s Cancer Awareness

If you’ve noticed an excess of facial hair on the men around you this month, you are not imagining this. It’s a real thing: many men are breaking up with their razors in November. But what does this increase in whiskers have to do with promoting men’s health, and how could moustaches possibly raise awareness for cancer?

For the past several years, November as we know it has been replaced by the charitable endeavors of Movember and No Shave November, two organizations which seek to raise awareness for men’s health issues, using the moustache to spark conversations about prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health. With one out of two men at risk for developing some form of cancer in their lifetime, it seems there can never be too much awareness.

Here at Cancer for College, we receive a fair amount of scholarship applications from young men who have survived testicular cancer.  “This is largely a disease of young and middle-aged men, but about 6% of cases occur in children and teens,” states the American Cancer Society.

One of those young survivors is Michael Neri, who received a Cancer for College scholarship last year.

Michael Neri

In 2005 Michael was 19 years old and finishing his freshman year of college when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Today, he is a healthy, third-year medical school student at the University of Maryland.

“I have really enjoyed getting to be in the hospital every day and work more closely with patients,” Michael shared recently. “There have been times when seeing a patient in a certain situation reminds me of being in the hospital, which I think helps me be more understanding and empathetic for their situation, and hopefully better able to help them.”

Michael himself looks back on his hospital experience as positive, despite the hardships of chemotherapy treatment. “I remember the kindness of the staff in providing me a DVD player to pass the time during chemo infusions. I remember my doctors checking in with me and keeping me informed about my test results and treatment plans. I remember the feeling of comfort and security my healthcare team gave me during a time of great insecurity. I realized then that I wanted to be a part of that team for someone else, and that realization lead me down the path to attending medical school.”

With such a positive outlook and a history of perseverance, we believe Michael will serve as an amazing inspiration to his future patients and families.

“Cancer provided a challenge that I could never have seen coming, but it also helped expose me to a life and career that I may not have found otherwise,” he says.

Michael, we wish you every success in the days to come!

Testicular Cancer Quick Facts

  • It is most often found in young men but can occur at any age
  • This type of cancer can be treated successfully and very often cured
  • The lifetime chance of having testicular cancer is about 1 in 270
  • The American Cancer Society highly recommends regular self examinations, to check for a lump, often the first sign of testicular cancer. Check out this link for more details.

(Source: Cancer.org)

For more specifics on the risk factors or symptoms of testicular cancer, please click here for details from City of Hope, or click here for information from the American Cancer Society.

If you have specific concerns about your health, please seek care from your doctor.

Breast Cancer Awareness for Childhood Cancer Survivors

Photo by Federal Government, (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Statistics support that breast cancer is not a young person’s cancer. “Just under 7% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old,” states WebMD.

Indeed, when I browse Cancer for College’s digital files to profile a scholarship recipient who had survived breast cancer, there were just a few individuals over the past several years. This is understandable, given that the target age range of our applicants is between 15 and 22 years old.

“However,” continues WebMD, “breast cancer can strike at any age, and women of every age should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer.”

An additional concern: childhood cancer survivors who received chest radiation may be at higher risk for developing breast cancer later in life.

“Several studies have shown that women treated with radiation to the chest for cancer during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood have an increased risk of developing breast cancer as they get older,” states Children’s Oncology Group in their Breast Cancer Survivorship Guidelines.

Additionally, a new study released this week shows that survivors of Wilms Tumor, a rare childhood cancer, run the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. (Read a detailed article by clicking here.)

While most childhood cancer survivors will not go on to develop breast cancer, it is especially important for survivors to remember they may be at higher risk, and to be more aware of risk factors and warning signs.

The known risk factors below apply to all women, as stated on Survivorship Guidelines.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

  • Early menstruation (before 12 years old)
  • Late menopause (after age 55)
  • Never having a baby or having a first baby after age 30
  • A close relative with breast cancer
  • Being overweight
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle

Other possible risk factors:

  • High fat diet
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Never breastfeeding
  • Smoking
  • Birth Control Pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy taken for long periods of time

Breast Cancer Warning Signs (from American Cancer Society)

  • A new lump or mass
  • Swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

A more detailed description on warning signs can be found on The Susan G. Komen website.

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please contact your medical provider.

Wishing you health and happiness today and always, from everyone at Cancer for College.

Breast Cancer Resources