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Breast cancer hits home

Ivana Pelisek | Interrobang | News | April 6th, 2009

Nearly 400 women between the ages of 15-39 will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in Ontario. Team Shan, an organization dedicated to the memory of Shanna Larsen, who died of breast cancer at 24-years-old, is raising awareness with a weeklong campaign.

During the seventh annual National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week during April 5-11 2009, Team Shan will deliver a call for action message to women everywhere about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

“Team Shan is dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer in young women with goals to increase early detection of breast cancer in young women and improve the outcomes for young women diagnosed with the disease,” said Lorna Larsen, Shanna's mother and Team Shan founder.

Team Shan has partnered with the Canadian Testicular Cancer Association ( for Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week.

“The messages we want people to take home is that adolescents and young adults can get cancer and that early detection saves lives,” added Larsen.

According to a statement, young adults face unique psychological concerns such as fertility, body image, cognitive function, long-term effects, and endure different biological and clinical aspects to their cancers. In comparison to younger or older patients, this particular age group of women has had less survival improvements when dealing with breast cancer.

“Young women are not more susceptible, but they are not immune to breast cancer,” said Larsen. “Women of all ages are at risk of developing the disease. Over 400 young women (15-39 years of age) are diagnosed in Ontario each year with breast cancer and about 60 diagnosed will die. Breast cancer is often very aggressive in young women.”

Shan was from Woodstock, attended Western and was heading off to teacher's college when she was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread. Shan was a visual arts major, a professional figure skating coach in Thamesford and Embro and a lifeguard and swimming instructor in London and Woodstock.

Shan is deeply missed, said Larsen of her daughter.

Also during the month of April, participating hair stylists throughout the city of London will be handing out “Be a Breast Friend” information packages to interested clients regarding the importance of breast cancer and early detection of the disease. The stylists will also encourage eligible women age 50 and older to call the Ontario Breast Screening program to book a mammogram; free of charge.

According to Larsen, the following are symptoms of breast cancer in women:

- Breast lumps (most common symptom)
- Breast thickening
- Dimpling/puckering of the breast
- Breast changes (size, shape, skin)
- Breast swelling, redness, warmth or pain
- Nipple changes or discharge or leaking
- Symptoms that may appear from the spread of the disease (i.e. bone pain) and the Facebook group “Breast Cancer... not just a disease of older women” can be visited for further detail regarding cancer awareness week through April 5-11 2009.
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