Staying strong: Women in their 20s share their stories of battling breast cancer
Patients share their experiences to raise awareness of increasing cases of breast cancer in younger women
She was four months pregnant with her third child when she found out she had stage three breast cancer.
It was in 2017 when the 26-year-old housewife, who wanted to be known only as Madam Nadiya, felt soreness in her breast and went to see a doctor, who recommended she go for a biopsy.
Three days after the biopsy, the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
Now 29, she told The New Paper: "I was actually quite calm (over the diagnosis) as I had done my research and also knew that my family had a history of cancer."
Acting on medical advice, Madam Nadiya proceeded with a mastectomy to remove the affected breast.
Two weeks later, she gave birth prematurely at six months to a baby boy via a Caesarean section.
About two weeks after giving birth, she went for 16 chemotherapy sessions, which made her irritable and easily tired.
Madam Nadiya, who has three sons aged 12, five and three, is featured in a Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) paper titled Take Charge Of Your Breast Health - Journeys Of Young Women With Breast Cancer In Singapore.
Released on Aug 1 and available on www.bcf.org.sg, it shares the journeys of 11 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 20 and 45 years old, with the objective of raising awareness of the increasing incidence of breast cancer in younger women and emphasising the need to check for and treat breast cancer at an early stage for improved survival rates.
Madam Nadiya said: "When I have breakdowns, it is usually about the kids. They are still young and need affection, but I can't attend to them fully.
"(So) I am very grateful that I have my supportive family members making special arrangements just for me."
A year after the mastectomy, she started experiencing pain in her pelvic region, which turned out to be the early stage ovarian cancer.
This time, she decided not to go ahead with the recommended hysterectomy - the surgical removal of the uterus - as she did not want to put herself and her family through more suffering.
Instead, she opted for oral medication, hormone pills and chemotherapy jabs.
"At times, I felt like I was a burden to people. But I kept positive throughout. I slowed down and cherished every moment with my loved ones," she said.
Another profile in BCF's paper is of Ms Cindy Wong, 31, who is currently unemployed.
When her boyfriend found a lump in her breast in 2018, she initially ignored it. When she finally got it checked, she discovered she had stage 1A breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy to remove the lump.
Ms Wong told TNP: "I was shocked, in despair and angry. I was also ashamed because I thought young people should not get breast cancer."
A pathology test revealed she was positive for the BRCA1 gene.
She subsequently went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy and did a mastectomy as a preventive measure to lower the risk of breast cancer returning within two to five years.
Those who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers at younger ages than those who do not.
A month ago, Ms Wong also underwent a hysterectomy to prevent ovarian cancer, choosing to be safe rather than sorry as it is difficult to detect the disease early.
She said: "Early detection saves lives. Breast cancer is not a death sentence, especially if you catch it early. The earlier you find out, the earlier you can beat it."