Our daughter, Shanna (Shan), was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer following months of excessive bone pain, increased symptoms of ill health and parental concern. Shan was not diagnosed until the breast cancer had spread from her breast to her bones and then to her liver. Shan passed away less than four months later.
None of the primary care providers or the bone specialist who saw Shan during her illness had cancer on their checklist. Diagnosed with a common, benign condition we were reassured that Shan would be fine. After numerous visits for medical follow-up, Shan continued to be misdiagnosed. Her symptoms increased and included unresolved bone pain, fatigue, headaches, nausea and weakness. We were very concerned and requested further testing. An abnormal liver function test finally alerted our doctor to something more serious and Shan was accurately diagnosed.
From the initial onset of her symptoms, the physicians looked for what was common in an otherwise healthy 23 year old. When her symptoms persisted, the ‘weird, bizarre or out of the ordinary’ were not ruled out. Cancer was not on their radar. Too many teenagers and young adults with cancer face delays in diagnosis and valuable treatment time against an aggressive, insidious, often fatal disease is lost. For Shan, the war was over before she reached the battlefield. Cancer won.
Shan lost her life, her dreams and goals for the future. Her potential and that for society was also lost. Shan was a skilled lifeguard, talented artist, professional figure skating coach and university graduate heading off to teacher’s college. She had a passion for life and working with young children. Shan is sadly missed.
Young women need to understand their risk of breast cancer. They need to be informed about the symptoms and self care strategies in order to know their bodies and know their breasts. They need the opportunity to self detect symptoms to increase the possibility of an earlier diagnosis. When symptoms are persistent, young women need to be empowered to ask the question“Could this be cancer?”
Lorna Larsen (Shan’s Mom)