Making the decision to have a double mastectomy at age 20
August Miller already decided at age 20 that his surest way to avoid cancer was to have a preventative double mastectomy.
TOLEDO, Ohio — For 20-year-old August Miller, breast cancer is a part of life.
“It’s just something I was told growing up: breast cancer runs in the family,” Miller said, “Be aware of it, expect it, be aggressive.”
Miller’s family is small and sadly, cancer has run through the family a few times before. Her grandmother was diagnosed for the second time when Miller was 4 years old. She said her mother was diagnosed when she was in 6th grade.
Miller was a caregiver for her grandmother and her mother. The reality of cancer was something she faced very regularly. She said his mother was always trying to make fun of him and make him less scary.
“We love that it’s part of our lives. She and I made it fun,” Miller said. “Like, her and I love talking about boobs.”
Having a positive and realistic view of the disease led Miller to discover hard truths early in his life. She said doctors gave her a 33% chance of having breast cancer. At 18, she began to seriously consider following in her mother’s footsteps and undergoing a mastectomy.
Now in her final year of school at Whitmer College, Miller made the decision at just 20 to have a preventative mastectomy.
She said some medical professionals and others tried to talk her out of it. Since the entire medical procedure won’t be free and life after surgery will be different, some fear it’s too extreme.
But Dr. Jessica Burns, surgical breast oncologist at ProMedica, said preventative surgeries are extremely personal choices. Still, the idea of having one at a specific age is not something anyone would enter lightly or at random.
“No, it’s not something extreme to do. These patients have many years ahead of them of the anxiety that surrounds them,” Burns said. “It’s 33%. I’ve definitely seen higher, there’s higher. But it’s quite high, especially when you look at a 21-year-old girl, she has so much life ahead of her.”
Miller lost his grandmother to breast cancer in October 2021. It’s dramatic life events like this that confirm his decision, as a 33% chance of getting cancer is too much to worry about. her head and too much risk for her.
Especially because she will never know when she will have this bad news.
“I could have a newborn and be diagnosed with breast cancer. I could start a new job,” Miller said. “And 33%, versus 10% – 12%, that’s just the average.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, based on current incidence rates, approximately 12% of women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
If this rate stays the same, it means that about 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
A mastectomy will lower Miller’s chances to the national average.
“Do what’s best for you and trust your instincts,” she said.
Miller plans to graduate from college for a full semester in early December. Thereafter, she had no plans except to travel with her mother to the Center for Breast Restorative Surgery in New Orleans, to focus on her operation.
“I have no idea what my adult life will be like after I graduate because I think after the surgery I’m going to have to relearn who I am because it’s such a big change,” Miller said.
She anticipates that her medical bills, change of clothes, and life after surgery could cost around $10,000 out of pocket, and that’s with insurance.
If you’d like to donate to help, her GoFundMe with her full story is at this link or you can click below.