I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer at 27. But I Brushed Off My First Symptom for Too Long

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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In March, 27-year-old Alanna Vizzoni learned she had breast cancer. Her day-to-day life in Hoboken, New Jersey, immediately shifted from focusing on her work at a fashion startup and planning summer travel to scheduling surgeries and freezing her eggs. Now, Vizzoni is chronicling her experience on TikTok to share information about early signs with other young people. Here’s her story, as told to writer Alexis Berger.

My breast cancer story began in November 2023, but if it weren’t for my boyfriend Mike’s persistence, who knows how long I would have waited to get checked. I’m 27 years old, and I never thought to do a breast self-exam. But when Mike found a lump the size, shape, and squishy texture of a blueberry in my left boob, he implored me to see a doctor immediately.

I was nowhere near as freaked out. Even after I felt the lump and confirmed my other boob contained no such blueberry, I couldn’t believe a painless little marble under my skin might indicate anything seriously wrong. My first stop was Google, which told me my blueberry might be hormonal or related to my period. I also knew that my mom has fibroadenomas (noncancerous breast lumps)—she even calls herself “lumpy.” I figured it made sense that I’d be lumpy too, especially since fibroadenomas are most common in people my age, and family history means I’m more likely to have them. Cancer, on the other hand, made no sense to me at all.

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Nevertheless, Mike was in my ear constantly for the next two weeks, asking me to just see a doctor to make sure. To placate him, I made an appointment for a breast exam the day before Thanksgiving. My ob-gyn thought the same thing I did: Based on the lump’s rubbery texture, my lack of pain, and my mom’s fibroadenomas, she said it was probably a benign fibroadenoma. She gave me an ultrasound prescription, but based on the exam, she wasn’t concerned, so I wasn’t either. She suggested I get checked out at my leisure—perhaps after the holidays.

For the remainder of 2023, I went about my life normally. But by mid-January, the lump had become bigger and firmer—similar to a grape in its size and feel. I still hadn’t experienced pain, redness, nipple discharge, or itchiness—common early breast cancer symptoms—but changes in a breast lump’s shape and texture are cause for alarm too. All at once, the lump was on my mind around the clock. I got an ultrasound appointment for the week of Valentine’s Day. The radiologist found the lump suspicious, so I got it biopsied. On March 1, I got the worst call of my life. My radiologist informed me I had a cancerous tumor.

What was especially traumatic about it was that the call came at the very end of a Friday. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but all I took away was, “You have cancer. We’ll be in touch next week,” without any other context. I went through that whole weekend convinced I was dying. The first night, my parents and brother rushed over to the apartment Mike and I share, and we all grieved my diagnosis over multiple bottles of wine. My childhood best friend, Becca, came too. Coincidentally, Becca is recovering from a preventative double mastectomy after learning she has BRCA gene mutations, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Mike’s mother was also about to start radiation for stage 0 breast cancer. I felt like I’d been admitted to a club I never wanted to join, right alongside two women who mean so much to me.

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