Breast Cancer at the Age of 24 - NBC Southern California

Breast Cancer at the Age of 24

A rock violinist who was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman is helping educate others about the disease.

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    Breast Cancer at the Age of 24
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    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

    Professional LA rock violinist Asha Mevlana is one of the 7 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40.

    "I found the lump in January 1999. It was hard and small, in my left breast, under my armpit," Mevlana said.

    She was 24 years old.

    "I was shocked. It didn't make any sense," Mevlana said. "Everyone that I had heard of with breast cancer wasn't certainly my age. They were always my mother's and grandmother's age."

    The American Cancer Society's 2011-2012 research shows that women with a family history of breast cancer, especially in a first-degree relative such as a mother or sister, are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

    Mevlana did have a family history of breast cancer. Her aunt was diagnosed at a young age and her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 81, just six months before Mevlana was.

    She was inspired to help spread awareness, so she worked for the Young Survival Coalition, a New York-based, non-profit organization that educates about breast cancer in younger women.

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    There, she spent time helping women who were in the same situation.

    "It's hard because I had so many friends there that passed away from it. It was tough," she said.

    More than 10 years later, breast cancer survivor Mevlana moved from the East Coast to LA and pursued a full-time music career.

    In addition to performing at the Grammys with Gnarls Barkley, Mevlana also has shared the stage with Cindy Lauper, Alanis Morrisette, The Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias and many more artists.

    She hardly thinks about it anymore.

    "It's weird to look at pictures now of me (back then). I keep thinking, 'wow I can't believe I went through this.' It felt like a totally different life and time," she said.

    Younger women are more aware of their family history, their ethnicity and of certain breast cancer risk factors, said breast oncologist Dr. Cathie Chung of the Angeles Clinic.

    "When you hear a woman that has breast cancer at a younger age, it makes you more aware of it because it sort of sticks out more," Chung said.

    Burbank breast cancer surgeon Dr. Deanna Attai recommends women over the age of 40 get mammograms, but she doesn't recommend mammograms for the average younger women.

    "Not someone with a strong family history, not someone who has had a biopsy in the past that shows abnormality or women with increased risk," Attai said. "Mammograms are not that helpful in younger women."

    Breast self-exam and breast health awareness are more common options for younger women.

    "Get to know what your normal breast tissue feels like," Attai said. "It doesn't mean that you'd have to be able to pinpoint every little lump and bump, but to have a general awareness of what you breast feel like. Just like you have a general awareness of what's going on in the rest of your body."

    Chung said to consult a medical expert immediately if a lump or abnormality is found.

    "Whether it is getting another imaging modality such as an ultrasound or an MRI or a biopsy, do not rest if the mammogram says it's nothing when you feel something in the breast," Chung said.

    That's what saved Mevlana's life.

    "I think it's so important to be pro-active about your health and if you feel like there might be something wrong, it's ok to get a second opinion," Mevlana said. "It's ok to find someone that you really trust. It's really important. You want to really have full faith in your doctor."

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