- A 29-year-old with a lump in her breast said she was refused mammograms because of age and family history.
- The TikToker said her lump grew 8 inches and was later diagnosed as stage 4 cancer.
- Young women have spoken out about serious symptoms being rejected in the medical system.
Philecia La’Bounty was at the movies with her boyfriend Brent Maggard in 2018 when she reached under her shirt to adjust her sports bra — and felt a marble-sized marble in her left breast.
“It didn’t feel like the rest of my breast tissue,” she said on TikTok, and Maggard agreed.
But when La’Bounty, who had no insurance at the time, went to a free clinic for an ultrasound, the results were clearly back. Doctors told her she had nothing more than a benign cyst and that she had nothing to worry about.
After all, she was a 29-year-old in Southern California doing CrossFit and traveling internationally for modeling.
Still, La’Bounty was uncomfortable with the mass, so she asked the doctor to request a mammogram. La’Bounty said the request was denied due to age and lack of family history — twice.
“I had perfect blood work, no other symptoms, no other masses, so they refused any other treatment, told me I was too young to have breast cancer, that I was healthy, it was just a cyst and come back if it bothered me” , said La’Bounty on TikTok.
Eight months later, La’Bounty was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Now 35 years old and likely to be on chemotherapy for life, she is sharing her story to encourage other young women to be aware of their breast cancer risk and to seek answers when something in their body doesn’t feel right.
“Had I seen someone I was related to posting about this, I would have taken my situation more seriously,” she told Insider. “I would have fought harder. I would have found a way to pay for a mammogram.”
“If I can save one life,” she added, “it’s worth everything I post.”
La’Bounty said she knew her diagnosis was bad when the doctor kept leaving the room during scans
In the months leading up to La’Bounty’s diagnosis, her lump grew to eight inches — noticeable and bothersome, she said, in the tight-fitting dresses she wore to auto shows.
When she returned to the clinic this time, she was taken for emergency mammograms and ultrasounds, she said. The technician continued to leave the room between scans to presumably consult with other clinicians, La’Bounty said. “That’s when I knew it was really bad,” she told Insider.
Follow-up biopsies, a PET scan, and an MRI confirmed that La’Bounty had stage 4 breast cancer, which had spread to her lungs, lymph nodes, and breastbone. “My heart sank, I was afraid to lose my life, my family, my friend,” she said. “I was terrified of dying.”
Although breast cancer is most common in women over the age of 50, about 9% of all new cases in the U.S. are found in women under the age of 45, according to the CDC. “Breast cancer is no longer an old woman’s disease,” La’Bounty said.
And while family history increases the risk of breast cancer, especially in younger women, 87% of women with the disease have no immediate family history of the disease, Ceders Sinai reports.
So if you think something is wrong, make an appointment, La’Bounty said. “It’s terrifying,” she said, “but it’s better to know than not to know. The sooner you find it, the better.’
La’Bounty Says She Will Likely Get Lifelong Chemotherapy
La’Bounty first underwent six months of IV chemotherapy, which included one round of a treatment known as “the red devil” for its toxicity and tinge. “I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva,” she said.
Since then, she’s been on oral chemo that she takes in five-week cycles — three on, two off. “Every five to six weeks I feel like real garbage,” she said.
La’Bounty said a recent PET scan showed “no evidence of disease,” but she will likely receive chemotherapy “for life” to keep the disease inactive.
She also needs regular scans and blood tests, and her ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed to prevent the hormone-induced disease from returning. She takes hormone blockers for the same reason. That put her into early menopause. “The hot flashes were definitely the hardest for me,” she said in a TikTok.
But she tries not to dwell on her condition. “There’s so much more to my time than obsessing over my cancer,” she said, as is her family and work knocking on the door for solar. “I try to maintain a normal life more than a cancerous life.”
La’Bounty needs a surrogate to have children
Just before her first round of chemotherapy, La’Bounty learned—through a video—that the treatment could make her infertile. “I was shocked,” she said.
When confronting the oncologist, the doctor said, “I’m trying to save your life, I don’t have time to discuss every option,” La’Bounty said.
So after that treatment, La’Bounty found a new doctor who gave her a few weeks to continue egg freezing before moving on to a less toxic form of chemo.
La’Bounty now has 10 eggs in storage, but will need a surrogate when she and Maggard are ready for a family, as pregnancy hormones are said to be too dangerous for her body.
That reality is “devastating,” La’Bounty said on TikTok.
“I’ve always wanted to carry my own kids,” she told Insider. “That’s something I’m still in therapy for today.”
Young women can be victims of medical gaslighting
Research shows that women are at higher risk for “medical gaslighting,” or when medical professionals dismiss symptoms, refuse tests or treatments, and end up misdiagnosing.
A 31-year-old mother previously told Insider about her months-long pain being dismissed as a gallbladder problem for being too “young and healthy” for cancer. She was later diagnosed with stage 4 bile duct cancer.
For 23-year-old Chloe Girardier, it took five months and seven doctor’s appointments for doctors to take her ongoing cough and weight loss seriously, The Sun reported. She had Hodgkin lymphoma.
And 20-year-old Georgia Ford said her pain, spasms, vomiting and weight loss were dismissed as “all in the head.” She had stage 4 kidney cancer.
Women are “not believed, and that causes significant delays in care, misdiagnoses, late diagnoses, ineffective treatment and ineffective triage,” Dr. Garima Sharma, an internal medicine physician and cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, previously told Insider. “Women pay a very high price.”
dr. Mikhail Varshavski, a primary care physician known as “Dr. Mike,” told Insider patients who feel discharged by their doctor to ask the hospital’s patient advocate and try to think “charitable.”
“Instead of assuming that your provider will gaslight you, even though they may be, say, ‘OK, I don’t think I’m getting enough care, so I’m assuming the reason this is happening is outside under the control of the provider. But I will still try to make the most of my visit,” Varshavski advised.
“If both sides exhibit charitable thinking,” he said, “that’s where you get the best results.”