Thursday, 20 January 2011

Survives rare form of breast cancer;

Bebee/Record Aleisha Hunter gets a hug from her mom, Melanie Hunter.

A Canadian breast cancer survivor who underwent a radical mastectomy last summer is too young to wear a bra, much less worry about reconstructive surgery. Four-year-old Aleisha Hunter was only 3 when her family received the devastating news that she had cancer, according to

Her mom, Melanie Hunter, had noticed that her daughter’s left chest had a lump, a lump that grew and turned purple over the year. though several physicians told the concerned mom not to worry, she traveled to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto last spring with Aleisha. There, the preschooler was diagnosed with secretory breast carcinoma.

“It was a shock,” Melanie told “It was scary. I had to sit down.”

Besides being very visible, the lump was very painful.

“It was really frustrating,” Hunter told the “She [Aleisha] wasn’t sleeping, and she was in a lot of pain.”

The type of breast cancer Aleisha had is “very rare,” according to Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum Smith of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. “It’s seen in a younger population than the more traditional breast cancer. Usually it presents in the third decade of life.”

Fewer than 0.01% of all diagnosed breast cancer occur as this type of cancer, known as juvenile breast carcinoma.

“It’s the rarest of rare types,” says Dr. Patrick Borgen, director of the Brooklyn Breast Cancer Program at Maimonides Medical Center. “In the few cases I have been involved with, we have done surgery, but not chemo or radiation because of the potentially bad effects on a growing child.”

Aleisha’s surgery included removal of lymph nodes under her arm.

“They cut my booby off,” she told “It was growing so big.”

Her mother said that the child’s surgery went very well and that her daughter was up and running around as soon as the tubes were out.

“It’s gone,” Melanie Hunter said. “She’s cured.”

Down the road, the little girl will need surgery to reconstruct a breast. She’ll most likely be followed medically for the rest of her life, Borgen says, since the secretory carcinoma cells grow very slowly and could cause a return of cancer years later.

Still, though the siblings of a child diagnosed with this form of cancer may face a slightly higher risk of cancer as adults, they’re no more susceptible than anyone else to the secretory carcinoma that Aleisha had.

And it’s not a cancer most people should worry about. “I certainly wouldn’t tell people to get in a panic,” Smith said. “People should stick with the regular guidelines for mammograms. But this case illustrates why it is good to do breast self-exams and if there is the development of any kind of lump, it should be checked out.”

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