By Nancy Hilbrands - April 04, 2023
When Emily Rozen’s sorority invited one of the mothers to share her breast cancer journey, the young women learned about the importance of knowing your body and performing regular self-exams. Rozen took the message to heart. She performed a self-exam — and found something suspicious on her breast.
“I was shocked when I found a lump and I ignored it for a couple of weeks,” Rozen said. It was less than a week before her 19th birthday.
Rozen had a biopsy at a local women’s clinic. Luckily, the results came back negative for cancer. The mass was removed and no further treatment was required. But in late 2021, her doctor discovered a second lump during her annual screening. Realizing her case was unique, Rozen knew she needed to seek care at a comprehensive cancer center, and she set up an appointment at Moffitt.
In December 2021, she underwent a lumpectomy to remove the second mass, which thankfully was benign. Rozen asked her care team at Moffitt to review the slides from her first biopsy. After careful examination, it was determined that the original mass had actually been cancerous. The final diagnosis was low-grade adenosquamous breast carcinoma.
Breast cancer in teens is rare, but Rozen has a family history of the disease. “My paternal grandmother had breast cancer in her early 30s, and my maternal great-grandfather was diagnosed with it late in life,” Rozen shared.
As a young person dealing with a cancer diagnosis, Rozen understands the unique challenges brought about by confronting mortality at an early age. It’s also why she became an ambassador for Moffitt’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Program.
The AYA Program provides support and resources for cancer patients ages 15 to 39.
“It’s hard to grasp how cancer will affect the rest of your life,” Rozen said. “Moffitt’s AYA Program takes away a lot of the unknowns. It provides a way to connect with survivors who have gone through similar experiences and have a safe space to talk with supporters during very confusing and uncertain times.”
Rozen says she became an ambassador to give a voice to a population that often feels unseen, so they know there are people fighting for their best possible outcomes. One of her goals as an ambassador is to ensure all Moffitt patients ages 15 to 39 know about the AYA Program. The AYA ambassador committee meets once a month to discuss patient needs, provide insight on initiatives and brainstorm new ways for Moffitt to provide the best experience for younger patients.
Because of her personal cancer journey, Rozen chose to pursue a career at Moffitt. She began working at the cancer center in March 2022, where she is thriving in her role as a research coordinator.
“My patient experience at Moffitt was amazing,” Rozen said. “I knew it would be just as amazing of a place to work.”
Rozen will graduate from the University of South Florida in December 2023 with a master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology & Maternal and Child Health. She plans to stay with Moffitt and continue her work in cancer prevention and supporting AYA cancer survivors.
Fortunately, Rozen is in remission but remains diligent about getting biannual MRIs. She knows firsthand the realities of cancer and has used her experiences to propel her into a career that she hopes will positively impact patients for years to come.
“I am so grateful for everything that Moffitt has given me, and now it is my turn to give back. I am looking forward to my future here!”
April 3-7 is Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. For a list of resources and upcoming events provided by Moffitt’s AYA program, click here.