By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
Doreen resident and mother Georgina Huan, 33, has joined the National Breast Cancer Foundation as a community ambassador to share her story of recovering from stage-three breast cancer.
Now in remission, she hopes to encourage more awareness among young people.
Ms Huan, a bladder cancer research scientist, first noticed a lump in her breast in 2018 when she was 29.
Her GP said it was simply hormone changes, but several months, later when she noticed the lump was getting harder and bigger, she pushed for an ultrasound.
“The ultrasound said it came down to blocked ducts,” Ms Huan said.
“They put it down to me having breast fed, and I said ‘my child’s almost four, I was breast-feeding three years ago’.”
When her nipple began to leek milky and eventually bloody discharge, she insisted on seeing a specialist, who similarly told her he was ‘99 per cent sure’ she didn’t have cancer.
“But I did push for a mammogram [something usually only given to people over 50] and he reluctantly signed off,” Ms Huan said.
It was then – six months after her first GP visit – she was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer, which came with several treatment options.
When she reported pain in her armpits, doctors followed up with an MRI and CT scan, and her category was upgraded to stage three as the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
Ms Huan underwent 17 rounds of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation before a bilateral mastectomy.
“My entire breast was covered in cancer, it wasn’t just that one lump,” she said.
“[My doctor said] ‘if we waited another six months you would probably be terminal, stage four, we don’t even know if you’d be alive’.
“Because by the time the caught it, they were scanning it every week and they realised my tumour was already growing one centimetre a week.”
Joining the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Ms Huan wants to raise awareness, in both health professionals and patients, that young people can get cancer too.
“I felt like I was just being ignored and put down just because of my age and the reason I want to share now is because I want younger people to realise it can happen to them too,” she said.
“If something is wrong, keep pushing. If one doctor doesn’t want to listen to you, go to a second. It took me the fourth and the fifth opinions before I even got heard.
“You advocate for your own body, you know your body best – no one else can tell you how you feel, only you know that.”
Ms Huan will also use her ambassadorship to promote new breast cancer prevention research, which she said was crucial as new data showed breast cancer incidence had consistently increased over time, now outpacing population growth for the first time in Australia.
As part of the foundation’s research, her blood, which did not contain any known genetic predispositions to breast cancer, will be examined for other mutations that could be linked to increased cancer risk.
The organisation is now pushing a powerful ambition to end deaths from breast cancer by 2030.
“We want to make breast cancer a chronic disease and not a death sentence,” Ms Huan said.
To find out more, visit www.nbcf.org.au.