She’s one of the youngest known breast cancer survivors in the world - she had a full mastectomy this past summer. Four-year-old Aleisha Hunter talks about her “ouchy" and can’t even pronounce most of the words that surround her diagnosis and treatment. Despite her young age, however, she’s inspiring women around the world and participating in charitable events to help others.
The blonde, knee-high little girl is from Cambridge, Ontario in Canada. Her mother, Melanie, first sought treatment after noticing a pea-sized lump in Aleisha’s chest in December, 2008. Doctors diagnosed a bacterial infection of the lymph nodes. Despite treatment Aleisha remained ill. When the lump began growing in 2010 Melanie became very alarmed and pushed for answers which surprised everyone when they came. Aleisha had a rare type of invasive breast cancer - juvenile secretory breast carcinoma.
Pediatric experts from Canada, Texas and Illinois consulted on the case, and determined that a mastectomy was the best course of treatment. Melanie told her daughter the doctors were going to “fix her ouchy.”
Dr. Nancy Down led the surgical team. In an interview with the Globe and Mail she described the condition as “rare, rare – really rare,” adding “I would describe it as a handful of cases in the literature that have been reported.”
Should other parents of young girls be concerned? Down says no. “Certainly the cases are not, to my knowledge, increasing in frequency. I don't think it's something that parents as a rule have to have any particular concern about.”
Down said Aleisha’s prognosis is good, and she expects the little girl will have a long, full life, although medical checkups and monitoring will be important.
How does a four-year-old breast cancer survivor act? She supports other survivors. In September Aleisha was one of the volunteers helping 4,600 walkers in the annual Weekend to End Women's Cancers, a fundraiser for the Princess Margaret Hospital's cancer-research unit in Toronto. She greeted walkers at a pit stop with a wide smile and asked them, “Do you have the same cut as me?”
"She's a pretty confident kid," said her mother.