4-year old Canadian is youngest breast cancer survivor



Aleisha Hunter is only 4 years old, barely just out of toddlerhood. Yet she has, in her short life, faced, battled and won over the monster that is breast cancer.

When Aleisha was 2 and a half years old, her mother noticed a small lump on her chest which grew and became painful. The case baffled the doctors at first and misdiagnosed her condition as lymphatic inflammation which is a bacterial infection of the lymph nodes.

Aleisha, who is from Ontartio, suffered from what is now known as juvenile breast carcinoma or secretory carcinoma of the breast, a disease so rare that the number cases can literally be counted on one hand.  Fortunately, this type of cancer is slow-growing and not as aggressive as the more common type of breast cancer diagnosed in adults.

According to Dr. Nancy Down, a surgical oncologist at North York General Hospital who was part of Aleisha’s surgical team:

“Cases like Aleisha’s are so rare you can almost count them on one hand. We’ve looked through the literature & the youngest we’ve found is three.”

Aleisha underwent a radical modified mastectomy that entailed removal the entire breast and the lymph nodes under the arm and is now pain and cancer-free. Like any other 4-year old pre-schooler, she’s happy and playful. However, the scar on her upper torso would always remind her of the ordeal she went through as a toddler. Dr. Down believes that Aleisha’s prognosis is good. When she gets older, she will have the option for reconstructive surgery.

About secretory breast carcinoma:

Secretory breast carcinoma is “a rare type of invasive breast cancer in which the tumour secretes fluid. Because cases of it are so rare, little research has been done on this type of cancer. But what is known is that it’s a relatively non-aggressive form of cancer that doesn’t spread quickly, and most patients recover well with treatment.”

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