Florida’s First Lady battles breast cancer at 41; doctors talk about risk factors in younger women

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, is fighting breast cancer at 41. Her husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis, made the announcement on Monday.

Action News Jax wanted to find out what younger women need to know about their risks. We got the answer in Brunswick, where the health department gives free mammograms to those in need.

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“I’m just telling every woman to have their mammogram done every year because it’s really important,” Jackie Myrick told Action News Jax.

Myrick is a breast cancer survivor. A simple mammogram saved her life.

“I didn’t have any symptoms,” she said. “They just did it and (saw) the spot.”

Action News Jax caught up with Myrick at the Glynn County Health Department, where nurses were screening people for free in a mobile mammogram unit. Though Myrick wasn’t there for a screening, but she commended the health care workers for providing free services to those in need.

The mobile unit typically serves 13 patients a month. It goes to different sites across town each month so it can reach as many patients as possible.

Registered nurse Ashley Holmes recommends for women between the ages of 40 and 64 to get screened annually.

“There’s no reason why anyone should be walking around in the state of Georgia with breast cancer, because there are so many programs out there to help,” Holmes said.

Holmes says nobody is immune to the disease.

UF Health breast cancer surgeon Leigh Neumayer agrees.

“The two biggest risks for breast cancer are getting older and being a woman,” she said.

However, she added that young women shouldn’t ignore the risks just because of their age.

“I’ve had women in their twenties with breast cancer and even a little younger than that,” Neumayer pointed out.

Data collected by the Florida Health Department show breast cancer incidents by age. Out of 100,000 people, 70 of them between the ages of 20 and 49 had breast cancer. That number climbed to just over 256 for people 50 to 64. The number of breast cancer diagnoses grew to 377 per 100,000 for people 65 and older.

In Georgia, out of 100,000 people, 27 breast cancer diagnoses were in people under age 39. That number climbed to 306 for people 40 to 49, and 481 for those 50 to 59.

While Neumayer says family history is another risk for breast cancer and certainly shouldn’t be ignored, 85% of her patients have no risk factors.

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“It can affect anyone and is very common,” Neumayer warned.

If any silver lining can be found in breast cancer diagnosis, it’s that the disease is highly survivable if caught early, Neumayer says.

Meanwhile, Myrick encourages every woman to get screened.

“Go anyway, just go,” she said.

She added that it can be the difference between life and death.

Here’s a list of national and local breast cancer resources: