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Breast cancer knows no age limits

Nicki Swann, 24, did not have a history of breast cancer in her family. A year-and-a-half ago she discovered a lump while getting dressed.
/ Source: KXAN-TV

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is the time of year that reminds both men and women, no matter what age, to pay attention to the warning signs of cancer.

Nicki Swann, 24, did not have a history of breast cancer in her family. A year-and-a-half ago she discovered a lump while getting dressed.

"I was zipping it up, and I noticed it was a little tender and kind of felt around and realized something was there," said Swann.

After checking for more information online, she decided to wait a few months to go to her college's health center in San Diego.

"She [the doctor] felt it and was like, 'Oh, it's nothing and was really reassuring.'"

The initial diagnosis was a fibrocystic change in the breast tissue, but the lump did not go away. After a year-and-a-half and on her fourth visit to the same doctor, the news was not so positive.

"She was finally like, 'It feels a little different to me, and you've been here so many times you might as well get an ultrasound to check it out.'"

The ultrasound and a biopsy at Saint David's in Austin showed the cancer was in stage three, and chemotherapy was the only option.

"Every three weeks I have chemo, which takes like six hours," said Swann.

So how does a lump go misdiagnosed for so long? Doctor Ames Smith at Saint David's said 0.5 percent of women in their 20s develop breast cancer, and there are certain signs to look for.

"The key in this setting is to look for a dominant mass," said Smith, a general surgeon at St. David's Hospital. "If a mass like that does not go away after one or two menstrual periods, then typically that needs to be evaluated."

For Swann, hopes are high she will beat cancer, even though it was diagnosed late.

"It really can happen to anyone, so don't think that it can't," said Swann. "Just follow up on it. I just try and be positive, because you will probably be a better person for it in the end."