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Teen proves breast cancer does not discriminate based on age

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

This teen's battle with breast cancer shows that it can affect you long before you're an adult

Many think that adolescent girls are too young to be hit with a breast cancer diagnosis, but sadly that's simply not true. Case in point, 16-year-old Arshawna Warren.

Warren has been an active Girl Scout since the age of 4, and as such, she is always doing things to better herself, including bimonthly self-check breast exams. She picked up this healthy habit from her mother (who's also her scoutmaster and a breast cancer survivor), who always taught her to be aware of her body. While many parents might think encouraging their teen to self-check is unnecessary, the precaution may have saved young Warren's life.

More5 Common myths about breast cancer

"I was just doing a regular check like she taught me to do every other week and I felt something kinda like a rock in my breast. It took until after the surgery to find out I had breast cancer. It was probably the scariest thing I've ever gone through in my life," Warren told WKYC, Cleveland's NBC affiliate. While it may have been scary, it could have been a lot worse if it had been found later by a doctor.

The sobering reality is that breast cancer doesn't care if you're 12 or 45. As long as you're old enough to have breasts, you can develop it for one reason or another. While it may be rare, it can happen, and rationalizing the unlikeliness of it occurring because you're under a certain age is foolhardy. It's far better to be overly cautious then to have the rug pulled out from under you later on with a more serious diagnosis.

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women ages 15-54. While the chances of a woman getting breast cancer in her 20s is 1 in 2,000, if diagnosed, the treatment is usually far more aggressive, because the cancer will probably be more developed. Since older women get more regular screenings and mammograms, it's more likely a tumor will be discovered at an earlier stage, thus making it easier to treat with less invasive procedures.

Teens often think that they're invincible, especially when it comes to risks they associate with being older. But that mindset is exactly what puts them at greater risk for a rude awakening. That's why Warren decided to start a group called Be Pretty In Pink to raise breast cancer awareness in her age demographic, and teach teens prevention methods.

"I figured, 'why not put a workshop on for young people about young people getting breast cancer or any type of cancer?' It's not too early to start checking," said Warren to WKYC. Self-checking takes less than a minute, and is something everyone with breasts should be doing regularly, not just once a year. If you have dense breast tissue, you may also be able to feel a lump that even a mammogram won't pick up. Sometimes the simplest methods of detection are the most effective.

More: Women talk candidly about breast cancer (VIDEO)

Warren, now a breast cancer survivor, is the superstar of her girl scout troop, and was given the highest honor, the Gold Award. However, I'm sure she'll say that having her healthy life back trumps any award or badge she'll ever receive.

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