A 29-year-old woman with a lump in her breast said she was refused a mammogram because she was too young. She now has stage 4 cancer.
- A 29-year-old with a breast lump said she was denied mammograms over her age and family history.
- The TikToker said her lump grew to be 8 centimeters and was later diagnosed as stage 4 cancer.
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 lump in her left breast.
"It did not feel like the rest of my breast tissue," she said on TikTok, adding that Maggard agreed.
But when La'Bounty, who didn't have insurance at the time, went to a free clinic for an ultrasound, the results came back clean. Doctors told her she had nothing more than a benign cyst and that she had nothing to worry about, she said.
After all, she was a 29-year-old in Southern California who did CrossFit and traveled internationally for modeling work.
Still, La'Bounty felt uneasy about the mass, so she asked the clinician to put in a request for a mammogram. La'Bounty said the request was denied because of her age and family history — twice.
"I had perfect blood work, no other symptoms, no other masses, so they denied 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," La'Bounty said on TikTok.
@philecialabounty Misdiagnosed lump that turned into stage 4 breast cancer #cancertok #breastcancer #stage4cancer ♬ original sound - Philecia
Eight months later, La'Bounty was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Now 35 years old and likely on chemotherapy for life, she's sharing her story to encourage other young women to be aware of their breast-cancer risk and push for answers when something feels off in their bodies.
"Had I seen someone that I related to, that was 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, "that's worth everything I post."
La'Bounty said she knew her diagnosis was bad when the clinician kept leaving the room during scans
In the months leading up to La'Bounty's diagnosis, her lump grew to 8 centimeters — noticeable and bothersome, she said, in the tight dresses she wore modeling at car shows.
When she returned to the clinic this time, she was whisked away into 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 La'Bounty had stage 4 breast cancer, which had spread to her lungs, lymph nodes, and sternum.
"My heart sank. I was scared to lose my life, my family, my boyfriend," she said. "I was terrified to die."
While breast cancer is most common in women over 50, about 9% of all new cases in the US are found in women under 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Breast cancer is no longer an old woman's disease," La'Bounty said.
While family history does raise the risk of breast cancer, especially in younger women, 87% of women with the disease have no direct family history of the disease, according to Cedars-Sinai.
So if you think something's wrong, make an appointment, La'Bounty said.
"It's terrifying," she said, "but it's better to know than not know. The sooner you find it, the better."
La'Bounty says she'll likely be on chemotherapy for life
La'Bounty first underwent six months of IV chemotherapy, including one round of a treatment known as "the red devil" for its toxicity and hue. "I couldn't even swallow my own spit," she said.
Since then, she's been on oral chemo that she takes in cycles of five weeks — three on, two off. "Every five to six weeks, I feel like actual garbage," she said.
La'Bounty said a recent PET scan indicated "no evidence of disease" but that she'd likely be on chemotherapy "for life" to keep the disease dormant.
She also needs regular scans and blood work and had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to help prevent the hormone-driven disease from recurring. She's on hormone blockers for the same reason. That's put her into early menopause.
"The hot flashes have definitely been the most difficult thing for me," she said in a TikTok post.
But she tries not to dwell on her condition. "There's so much more to consume my time than obsessing over my cancer," she said, pointing to her family and door knocking for solar energy. "I try to keep a normal life more than a cancer life."
La'Bounty will need a surrogate to have children
Right before her first round of chemo, La'Bounty learned — through a video — that the treatment could render her infertile.
"I freaked out," she said.
When she confronted her oncologist, she said the doctor said, "I'm trying to save your life. I don't have time to discuss every option."
So after that treatment, La'Bounty found a new doctor, who gave her a few weeks to pursue egg freezing before continuing with 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 because pregnancy hormones would be too dangerous for her body.
That reality is "devastating," La'Bounty said on TikTok.
"I've always wanted to carry my own children," she told Insider. "That's something I'm still in therapy for today."
Young women can be victims of medical gaslighting
Research indicates women are at higher risk of "medical gaslighting," when medical professionals dismiss symptoms, deny tests or treatments, and ultimately misdiagnose them.
A 31-year-old mom previously told Insider about her months-long pain that was dismissed as a gallbladder problem because she was too "young and healthy" for cancer. She was later diagnosed with stage 4 bile-duct cancer.
And the 20-year-old Georgia Ford said her pain, spasms, vomiting, and weight loss were dismissed as being "all in her head." She had stage 4 kidney cancer.
Women are "not being believed, and that's causing significant delays in care, misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, ineffective treatment, and ineffective triaging," Dr. Garima Sharma, an internal-medicine physician and cardiologist at Johns Hopkins previously told Insider. "Women are paying a very heavy price," she added.
Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, a family-medicine physician known as "Dr. Mike," told Insider patients who are feeling dismissed by their doctors should ask for the hospital's patient-advocacy office and try to practice "charitable" thinking."
"Instead of assuming that your provider is gaslighting you, even though they may well be, say, 'OK, I don't think I'm getting adequate care, so I'm going to assume that the reason this is happening is outside of the provider's control. But I'm still going to try and get the most out of my visit,'" Varshavski said.
"If both parties exhibit charitable thinking," he said, "that's where you get the best outcomes."
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