‘Even if it’s just a cyst, at least you got it checked’ – Cork woman on battling breast cancer at the age of 22

Jenny Sheahan (22) was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in September last year.

Seoirse Mulgrew

A young woman from Co Cork who is currently battling breast cancer has urged people to be familiar with their bodies and check themselves regularly.

Jenny Sheahan, who is from Newmarket, was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in September last year.

Ms Sheahan (22) felt a lump on her breast last June and went to her GP where she was placed on a waiting list for the breast clinic. However, she began to experience other concerning symptoms as well.

“It started off as a small lump and you kind of brush it off. But one day I just got this itch in my right breast, and I put my hand down and felt this hard area,” she told Independent.ie.

“When I went home and examined it, there was a huge lump there. I went back to my GP then as I was getting discharge from the nipple, and they were concerned that it was an infection, so they put me on a couple of rounds of antibiotics, but it wasn’t really clearing.”

Ms Sheahan then sought a second opinion and got an urgent referral because of the risk of a more severe infection, but said there was still no mention of “anything malignant”.

“It was August when all the investigations started,” she said. “The lump itself was 6cm. I got mammograms and biopsies and then September was when I actually found out it was cancer. I was facing six rounds of chemo and 14 rounds of immunotherapy.

“It all snowballed then – I started chemotherapy and immunotherapy together in October and that went on until February.”

Ms Sheahan is a marketing student at Munster Technological University, Cork, and has decided to defer her final year of studies so that she can “fully focus” on her treatment.

She is currently receiving immunotherapy, which helps the immune system to recognise and fight cancer cells, and has to undergo a lumpectomy this month.

“My mentality around it now is definitely a lot more positive than it was. I’m kind of at the stage where I’ve accepted it now, but it definitely takes a while to adjust,” she said.

“There are times of course when I feel sad or low, it’s a huge thing to go through and unfortunately my Nana passed away. It all kind of happened around the same week, she passed away on the 6th of June, and I found the lump on the 7th.

“My anxiety isn’t as bad anymore – I know it’ll probably still hit me from time to time. I find if I try and do things to help in some way in general, it helps me too.

“It is tough, but your health is your wealth, and you have to prioritise it. It’s out of your control as well and the only thing you can control really is how you manage yourself and how you treat other people.”

Ms Sheahan wanted to share her story ahead of Daffodil Day tomorrow to emphasise how important it is to be breast aware.

The Irish Cancer Society advises women to check their breasts every month and to be aware of any lumps, a change in size or shape, a change in your nipple, an unusual discharge or swelling in your armpit.

Each year in Ireland, more than 3,500 women and approximately 35 men are diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I’m 22 and that’s quite young. If you find something and even if it’s just a cyst, at least you got it checked,” she said.

“You’re better off and I know it’s this thing of ‘oh, what if it’s cancer and I’ll have to go through all this’ but it’s better than letting it go, and potentially being given far worse news.”

The Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day takes place on Friday March 24. Go to cancer.ie to get involved or donate