YouBreast cancer rates rise as people -- especially women -- get older.
But about 10,000 women under age 40 get diagnosed with breast cancer each year according to YoungSurvival.org..
Some survivors and the families of those who have been through a diagnosis early in life find that doctors sometimes doubt what their patients are seeing. Sometimes good comes from the early doubt, such as a young California woman who tries to keep a positive attitude as she goes through treatment and a Virginia man who became an awareness activist after he lost his sister.
Cathy White found out that she had breast cancer early this year before her 23rd birthday.
Though some groups advocate that women of any age examine their breasts regularly for changes, White says she never had. But before getting in the shower one day in February, she noticed a lump on the right side of her breast, near her arm pit.
"I don't know why I did it," she says. "I just did it."
Her mother felt the lump, too, and decided she should go to a doctor.
White was at first told it was probably related to her period, since she was so young.
Still, the doctor did a needle biopsy and said that it looked benign.
"She left me with nothing but a bruise," White says.
A month later, though, she went to a breast care center for an ultrasound, which found a second lump. Three days later, she was told she had cancer.
"My world just kind of stopped," she says. Though she knew the doctor was talking to her, she couldn't really understand the words, and could only ask if she was going to die.
Doctors told her to come back the next day when she was more under control.
"At first, I didn't believe her. I was waiting for her to say, 'We were wrong.' That call never came," White says.
When she started to hear about all the tests, scans and appointments she needed, "That solidified that 'this is real.'"
Then she was able to get a grip and realize she had to be strong. After agonizing about whether to get a double mastectomy -- as one doctor suggested -- White had a lumpectomy and started a course of six chemotherapy treatments over six months. "Chemo really makes you feel like a cancer patient," she says, because it can leave her weak and tired and makes her feel like she's not in control of her body.
"It's hard (but) I've always been really positive and try not to let the little things get me down," she says, adding that she tries to stay upbeat so others around her can, as well.
She has days where she wants to break down, but "it's just not worth it."
But cancer did allow White to think a bit more about what she wants to do with her life.
Before she got sick, she was working 40 hours a week in for a company that sells auto parts and had taken some college-level accounting courses.
But the illness has led her to think more about going to school with a particular goal in mind.
"I don't want my life to be, 'Oh, I worked in an office.'"
She says she would now like to change majors to something that would help her learn how to help others, possibly by opening a breast cancer clinic in the Philippines.
Finding Missing In Cancer
Shawn Gardner, a 41-year-old teacher from Washington, D.C., was also pushed to do something for others by breast cancer. He became a vocal fighter after his sister died when she was 26 years old.