How A 22-Year-Old Woman Accidentally Discovered Her Breast Cancer Lump

Finding the lump in her breast was an accident — Leslie Almiron had lost part of her necklace in her bra one day and went to find it when she also felt something else on her breast. At just 22, she didn't think much of it at the time, and neither did her mother nor the doctor that she later called.
Even though the initial doctor's appointment led to an ultrasound and a recommendation to see a breast surgeon, Almiron told People that she still didn't consider that the lump might be cancerous.
"Now that I think about it, it did take a long time," Almiron, now 24, told People about the ultrasound. "But I was just completely unaware of what was going on. I was just laying on the table, perfectly fine."
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But eventually, the results came back: Almiron had stage 3 cancer, and she would need to come back for more tests, as well as to undergo chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy.
Though it isn't common, cancer can and does happen to young women in their 20s. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 70,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 39 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S., with breast cancer amongst one of the most common types.
Being diagnosed with cancer so young can also mean having to make serious life decisions before you feel prepared. Almiron's doctor advised her to freeze her eggs, given how much breast cancer can throw fertility into question.
"I’m just freaking out," she told People. "I’m thinking, I have cancer, I’m not going to live to have children. Why do you want me to do this?"
While every person's experience will be different, she decided to go ahead and freeze her eggs in case her diagnosis would have an effect on her fertility later in life.
Almiron, a DACA recipient, credited the program with providing the insurance that helped her to pay for the medical bills. As arduous as her experience has been, she's remained positive, telling People that she hopes fellow young people with cancer know that "it gets better."
"The finish line will move, and it’s going to change, and it’s not going to be over when you think it’s over, or when you want it to be over, but there is an end," she said. "It’s coming. Just hang in there."
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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more stories about detecting, treating, or living with breast cancer, click here.
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