Updated Tue. May. 19 2009 1:50 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
A 10-year-old California girl is battling a disease many girls her age have not even heard of: breast cancer.
Fifth-grader Hannah Powell-Auslam of La Mirada, Calif., was diagnosed just over a month ago with Stage IIA invasive ductal carcinoma, her parents write on the blog. The diagnosis was later changed to invasive secretory carcinoma, a related cancer that is more slow-growing.
Both forms of cancer are extremely rare in girls of Hannah's age; cases have only been documented in a few hundred girls in this age group. The American Pediatric Surgical Association reports that less than one-tenth of one per cent of all breast cancer occurs in children or adolescents.
Hannah was diagnosed after complaining to her mother of an itch on the side of her chest. When her mother checked the area, she found a lump and made an appointment with the girl's doctor.
Doctors told Hannah's mother that there was little chance that the lump would be cancerous but ordered an ultrasound anyway. The doctors were wrong. The ultrasound revealed a tumour in the girl's breast that spanned nearly two inches.
"I didn't really know what cancer is. I was just crying and I couldn't stop," Hannah told local newspaper, the Whittier Daily News.
Hannah has now had a partial mastectomy to remove the tumour.
Because juvenile secretory carcinoma is rare, there is little good data on it. However, it is thought to be slow-growing and less aggressive than adult cancers, and patients usually have an excellent prognosis.
Hannah's doctors say it appears her cancer has spread into her lymph nodes. She is scheduled to have a second surgery and may undergo chemotherapy.
Hannah's family has started a blog, called OurLittleSweetPea.com, which has been overwhelmed with traffic since the girl's story began making headlines this week.