Tiffany FranzTwo years ago, 21-year old Tiffany Frantz would slide her phone into her bra and carry on without a care in the world. Yes, it would have been convenient back then, but little did she know that her bad habit had silently caused breast cancer.

She found a lump in her breast, and soon got to know that she had been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.  “They were surprised because of my age,” she says. “I was devastated, and surprised too. You know cancer is out there, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you.” Many speculations rose to the surface, with doctors even dictating that she may have a carried a pre-determined gene for breast cancer, but their thoughts proved baseless as Frantz’s family has had no history of breast cancer.

Frantz, a resident of Strasburg Township, was diagnosed with breast cancer on the same side that she carried her phone and will soon feature her story on “Dr. Oz” in a programme that will raise much need awareness between the cancer-cell phone link.

She’s also one of four young women featured in a small case study on cell phones and breast cancer recently published in a national journal. “I think it should be studied, so if it is, it can help other people,” says Frantz, now 23 and working as a bank teller and a server at a local restaurant.

Taking a warning call out of the story, her oncologist Dr. Randall Oyer, no longer even carries his own cell phone in his pants pocket. “I never really thought about it until I met Tiffany,” says Oyer, who is with Lancaster General Health Physicians Haematology & Medical Oncology.

“I take it very seriously,” he says of the possible link between her cancer and her cell phone. “I’m very concerned about it. For now, the message needs to be: Don’t put your cell phone in your bra. Don’t put it close to your body.”

Frantz ended up having her breast removed in March 2012 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, followed by radiation treatment, but unfortunately doctors found that her breast cancer had spread to her hip. Tests also showed lesions on her skull, ribs, pelvic bone and spine. She subsequently underwent radiation treatment again, and must do with an intravenous bone-building treatment.

Her oncologist highlighted the fact that many doctors don’t generally assume that cell phones can cause cancer, but he feels that it needs to be a top risk factor.

A report by the Environmental Health Trust featured four women, ages 21 to 39, including Frantz, who got breast cancer carrying cell phones in their bras. Further research is “urgently needed” on this topic, one of the report’s authors said.

“I feel good,” she says trying to hide her feelings. “I feel normal.” But deep down, Frantz knows that her life is never the same and it may just be all due to an unhealthy habit.