NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In this Breast Cancer Awareness Month there is an important message for young women.
Your lack of family history, fitness, good health, and even your young age does not make you immune.
CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has the story of a professional dancer who is a prime example of who can get breast cancer.
She appears to be the picture of health. Erin Monteleone is just 37, has a healthy lifestyle and is definitely fit. In fact, she was a Rockette for seven years, and performed with the Metropolitan Opera for six years.
But a few months ago she felt a lump in her left breast.
“They discovered actual cancer on the right side, so the left side was a benign cyst, and they found cancer in the right breast and right lymph node,” Monteleone said.
Her oncologist at Mount Sinai, Dr. Paula Klein, said women Monteleone’s age are not generally screened for breast cancer, even with a family history, which was the case with Erin because her mother didn’t develop breast cancer until age 63. But young women do have special considerations if they need fertility-damaging chemotherapy.
“There’s a massive effort in the beginning to have them consult with fertility and to make some sort of arrangement for fertility preservation, whether it’s egg freezing, embryo freezing,” Klein said.
Monteleone is getting chemo every three weeks before a double mastectomy and reconstruction. But for about 10 days or so, she said she feels well enough to take and teach dance classes because dance has been her life and passion since age 3, and it’s what gives her the strength to persist.
“What will I do after this? Where will I go? What stage will I perform on? So that’s what’s gotten me through all of the treatment,” she said.
Monteleone said she wants women to remember that even young women can develop breast cancer, and Dr. Klein worries about a tsunami of breast cancer cases in women who postponed their screening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said hospitals and screening centers are safe.