PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Breast cancer was the last possibility on Jennifer Koszewnik’s mind.

“I just thought it was some sort of hormonal thing or, you know, something with getting older,” Koszewnik.

What You Need To Know

  • Pasco teacher Jennifer Koszewnik diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39

  • An early screening helped catch the cancer early

  • Women have the option to begin yearly mammograms between the ages of 40-44

  • The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast

Koszewnik was only 39 years old last year when she noticed what looked like a pimple or blocked milk duct on her nipple. The first doctor she saw said it probably wasn’t cancerous but recommended it be checked anyway.

“I really feel like that saved my life,” she said.

Koszewnik was diagnosed with Stage 1A breast cancer. It was an aggressive form of the disease, and a double mastectomy was performed two weeks later, followed by chemo. The good news is, it was caught early. Koszewnik’s doctor said not all of his patients have been as lucky.

“I have seen the results of the pandemic in my office in a very bad way. There’s been more advanced breast cancer and lack of screens,” said Dr. John Cox, medical director for AdventHealth Tampa’s breast cancer program.

That’s something national organizations warned about last year. While Koszewnik said she did put off seeing a doctor at first, she wasn’t due for a screening yet. According to the American Cancer Society, women at average risk for breast cancer have the option to begin yearly mammograms between the ages of 40-44. Someone is considered to be at average risk if she has no personal history of breast cancer, no strong family history or genetic mutation known to increase risk, and hasn’t had chest radiation therapy before age 30. While Jennifer said doctors told her the issue she got checked out for originally had nothing to do with cancer, it did help them find cancer early.

“Breast cancer in the younger age groups often is worse,” said Cox. “You have a lot longer to live. There’s a lot more on the line.”

Cox said cases in younger women don’t necessarily appear to be on the rise.

“I did find a support group for younger women that are diagnosed before 40, and there’s a lot of people out there,” said Koszewnik. “I just think that not a lot of people talk about it for whatever reason.”

Today, the mom of two is doing well. She said she’s due for her last round of chemo in three weeks and looks forward to getting back to her job teaching in Pasco County. Koszewnik said she’s glad she listened to her body and hopes her story encourages others to do the same.

According to the ACS, the most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast. Other symptoms can include swelling in the breast, skin dimpling, and breast or nipple pain.

AdventHealth is offering $30 mammograms. To learn more, tap here