A 22-year-old Irish woman has opened up about being diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after finding a small lump.
Lauren Barrett said she received her cancer diagnosis at the same time she was told she is a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, which is linked to both breast and ovarian cancer.
The Kerry native was no stranger to the illness as she had watched her mother, who also has the BRCA1 gene, go through treatment for ovarian cancer when she was 16-years-old.
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Lauren told RSVP Live that she found out about her diagnosis on 4 June 2021 and had to undergo ten months of treatment up until the end of March 2022.
She said: “I found a small lump at the end of April 2021. I told my mam, and she told me to go get it checked. I suppose being so young, it could just be a cyst or tissue developing.”
It was around this time that Lauren had a feeling that she should get tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation.
She said: “When I was 16, about six-and-half years ago, my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was in Transition Year.
“Thankfully, it was caught quite early, and her treatment was successful. Due to her family history, they weren’t too sure if she had the BRCA1 gene, so they decided to check her.
“She was told she had the BRCA1 gene mutation and that left breast cancer and ovarian cancer, so she got a preventative mastectomy around three years ago.
“I was always told that they wouldn’t start screening until I was 24, and even then, it would have been the ovarian side of things.”
However, things changed in January of last year when the science student decided she needed to get a test done.
Lauren said: “Last January, I don’t know if it was my body’s way of telling me, but I had an inkling that I would like to get the test done.
“I’m studying science in college, so I have an idea of how it all works, and I knew there was a 50/50 chance, but my mum’s brother was tested, and he was negative.
“There was just something in the back of my head that it was going to be a female linked thing.”
Lauren said her doctors “weren’t keen” on doing the BRCA1 test due to her age.
She said: “But when I told them I had found a lump and was waiting on the biopsy results, they did the blood test.”
While waiting for both test results, Lauren was studying from home due to the pandemic and had an important exam to take.
She explained that awaiting the results made her anxious, but she had to compartmentalise to focus on her exam.
“I hadn’t heard back from the hospital, so I called them, and they said they hadn’t looked at the vitals, but I was put as ‘not urgent.’
“I had my BRCA1 test coming back around the same time. I went back to my GP and was put on a public waiting list which could take about 12 weeks.
“I just didn’t feel like waiting. I can’t really explain it. I just had a feeling.”
In June, Lauren was told she had breast cancer and prepared herself for different treatments.
“I did a round of IVF and things you have to do before starting chemotherapy. Then I found out I had a BRCA1 mutation.
“It meant I had a higher risk of reoccurrence, so I took some extra measures with five months of chemotherapy, and I had a full mastectomy and reconstruction.
“There were more issues there because in between that, I got Covid-19. I recovered for six weeks, and then in March, I had fifteen sessions of radiation.”
She has now been put in a system to see a gynaecologist because of the BRCA1 gene mutation she has.
“It’s about being extra cautious because there are other things connected to having the BRCA1 gene as well,” explained Lauren.
The young woman is now celebrating being cancer-free by taking part in 100km in 30days in an effort to raise money for Breast Cancer Ireland.
She explained: “Fitness has always been a big thing for me. I’ve played football since I was four or five, and I’ve done athletics.
“I thought I might walk it because I didn’t know how I was going to be fitness wise after my treatments.
“I was contacted by the 100kin30days group, and I was asked if I wanted to be one of their ambassadors, so I thought I’d try to run it.”
To support Lauren in running 100km in 30 days, you can donate here.
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