Buddy Check 3: Springfield woman shares story on breast cancer diagnosis; doctors explain challenges for patients under 40

Springfield woman surprised when diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age.
Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Buddy Check 3 falls on a holiday weekend this month. Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to connect with a buddy at an Independence Day celebration.

We’ll remind you on the third day of each month to remind each other to troubleshoot breast cancer.

Younger people need to watch for warnings signs of breast cancer too. We told you last month, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks was noticing an uptick in younger women needing help to pay for diagnostic tests for breast cancer.

We checked in with Cox and Mercy hospitals in Springfield, and found while the numbers fluctuate, women under the age of 40 have always been part of the patient population.

Like Alicia Cosgrove, many times they’re diagnosed with more aggressive types of breast cancer. Cosgrove might hold her son a little tighter these days, play with him a little longer, and love him even more than she did a year ago.

She was 33 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was swimming, and I actually had to stop swimming because I thought I had pulled a muscle on my shoulder, and then I felt just kind of that lump, which actually was up high,” said Cosgrove.

She was sure it was only a cyst, but knew she needed to get it checked out anyway. Doctors say, when you’re under 40, the sooner the better.

According to Dr. Amanda Lackey, a Mercy Hospital Radiologist, “we’re finding that they’re more invasive cancers in that age group. And then they present later in the stage of the disease.... so they’re usually more progressed along in their disease, which is heartbreaking, of course. The reason being, they don’t fall into that age of being screened each year.”

Regular screening guidelines are for women 40 years and older. Alicia was fortunate because her breast cancer was not advanced, but it was aggressive. Alicia says the diagnosis came back as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2, but her cancer cells were Level 4. So that meant aggressive treatment, chemotherapy and then a double mastectomy.

Alicia also lost her job during the pandemic. But with savings, support from her husband and extended family, she was able to focus on getting well and taking care of her son.

“Two’s hard anyway, much less going through treatment while you’re doing it,” said Cosgrove.

Cosgrove realized during recovery, getting breast cancer even at her age is not uncommon. She says, “Now that I’ve been in the middle of this storm for over a year now, I know more younger women with breast cancer than I do older women.”

Older women still make up the majority of breast cancer cases today, but doctors urge younger women to be more vigilant since they’re not getting annual screenings. And troubleshooting starts with those regular self-breast exams.

CoxHealth System Radiologist, Dr. Rick Ogles says, “I think most breast physicians would recommend women just be aware of their overall breast health. Nobody know themselves better than themselves.”

Paying attention to the warning signs of breast pain, then a lump made all the difference for Alicia and her family. She says it means the world that she’ll get to see her son grow up.

To find out more about those symptoms and to get connected with our Buddy Check 3 program here on KY3.com and sign up. We’ll get a free packet of information in the mail for you.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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