CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Learning of the diagnosis that you have cancer is devastating for any patient.
Atrium Health has a new program for women fighting breast cancer, specifically women under 40 years old.
Channel 9 learned how the program helps patients juggling treatment, their careers and having children.
Samantha Labrador, who is a 29-year-old working mother, found a lump on her breast.
“It was small. It felt like a pea,” Labrador said.
She was told she had breast cancer.
“I am estrogen receptive positive,” Labrador said. “I am stage 3 C, which is a later stage.”
Labrador had three surgeries, 20 weeks of chemotherapy and then radiation to fight it.
She's part of a minority among the women who are fighting breast cancer -- only 11 percent of breast cancer patients are younger than 40 -- but Atrium Health has a new program designed specifically to help them.
“A lot of women are juggling, trying to raise young families with cancer treatments,” said Dr. Julie Fisher, with Atrium Health
Fisher said they created support groups to help women navigate careers, their changing appearance and the serious worry that cancer treatment could impact fertility.
“We partner with colleagues in the reproductive endocrinology field to help try to preserve fertility so people can proceed with family planning going forward,” Fisher said. “We've got your back through this whole process and we're going to walk with you every step of the way.”
Labrador said the disease won't stop them from living life and celebrating each day.
“If I have another child, it could affect my cancer,” Labrador said. “If there's any left, it could grow.”
The Labradors are expecting another baby, and will become a family of four in March.
Fisher said patients in the young women's breast cancer program may also have the chance to be a part of clinical trials.
Doctors are researching breast cancer in younger women because they think it could be biologically different.
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