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Young women, fighting to live BREAST CANCERDIAGNOSIS UPENDS LIFE
A 27-year-old Culpeper woman shares her breast cancer story in the hopes of raising awareness about breast cancer in young women

 Janna Coppage, 27, of Culpeper has undergone surgery and months of chemotherapy in her fight against breast cancer, all while raising two small children.
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Date published: 7/22/2007


Janna Coppage was in the shower last September when she found the lump in her breast.

Her doctor had not noticed it when she examined Coppage the month before, and Coppage said she might not have found it, either.

But she had cleaned her shower that morning and had left her loofah across the room. So she used her hand instead of the sponge, and ran her fingers over the lump.

It was hard, round, the size of a quarter, and Coppage knew exactly what it was: breast cancer.

"Because of my family history, it just hit me as soon as I found it," Coppage said.

Her mother had died of cervical cancer years before, and two of her aunts had been diagnosed with breast cancer as well.

Coppage called her doctor right away and managed to get an appointment that afternoon. But Coppage said the nurse she saw before meeting with her doctor did not sense the same urgency.

"I've been a nurse for 30 years, and in the 30 years, I've never seen a woman under the age of 30 get breast cancer," Coppage remembers her saying. "Don't say anything to the doctor--you'll look silly."

Coppage was 26, and despite her overwhelming instincts, she said, she hesitated to tell her doctor about the lump. Instead, she complained about a cough.

But by the end of the appointment, she worked up the nerve to say something, and her doctor agreed--the lump was cause for concern.

'it can happen at any age'

Though breast cancer is not common in young women, it is not unheard of.

According to data compiled by the American Cancer Society, roughly 14,000 women younger than 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year.

In addition, an ACS report reveals that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths of women under 40.

Dr. James Daniel, a cancer specialist in Fredericksburg, said that young women are more likely to have more aggressive types of breast cancer--and to have recurrences--than older women are.

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To learn how to do a self breast exam, visit imag inis.com/breast health/bse.asp.

For more information about breast cancer, visit cancer.org. For support, try y-me .org. For information about clinical trials and treatment options, see susanlovemd.org. For help specific to young women, visit youngsurvival .org.

Locally, Mary Washington Hospital's cancer navigator program helps patients find doctors, schedule appointments and get support: 540/741-1769.

CHANCES OF GETTING BREAST CANCER: Before age 30: 1 in 1,985 Before age 40: 1 in 229 Before age 50: 1 in 68 Before age 60: 1 in 37 Before age 70: 1 in 26 Before age 80: 1 in 24

--American Cancer Society