Rebekah Gibbs’ Death Shows Just How Deadly Breast Cancer Can Be In Young Women

Rebekah Gibbs and Gigi

Rebekah Gibbs and Gigi

Actress Rebekah Gibbs has died today aged 41, six years after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Gibbs played paramedic Nina Farr for more than 100 episodes of the BBC medical drama, Casualty, between 2004 and 2006.

Rebekah first discovered a lump in her breast in 2008 when she was pregnant with her daughter, Gigi. Doctors were reassuring and said it would be benign. But just months after having baby  and after pushing for further treatment because she felt something was wrong, the actress was told she had a particularly aggressive cancer.

The actress was given the five year “all clear” in April 2013, but spoke about not taking her health for granted: “I won’t get cocky though and I take each day as it comes. I am always a little unsure about the future,” she said. Sadly last August she had a seizure while on holiday and was diagnosed with two brain tumours.

Breast cancer in young women is a devastating and complex disease.  Last week I attended the European School of Oncology 2nd Breast Cancer in Young Women Conference with discussions on how the etiology of breast cancer in younger women is poorly understood (click here for summary of conference tweets). Most clinical trials focus on women who are over the age of 40, thus little evidence-based data is available about the optimal management of younger women. Further research is much needed in this field. As Katherine O’Brien of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network has written, deaths of young women like Rebekah are a wake up call for all of us.