Ian Grant-Whyte, M.D., retired, visits John Abbott College every year.

He is passionate about combatting breast cancer and, once a busy doctor himself, says women need to learn how to conduct a self-examination.

"You mustn't rely on a busy doctor," touts Grant-Whyte.

The reason for his campaign is simple: the women in his life have fallen victim to the disease.

"My own ex-wife died at age 59 with widespread breast cancer in her lungs, liver brain. My daughter on her 50th birthday was told she had a breast cancer," said Grant-Whyte.

Thanks to annual mammograms cancers can be diagnosed early in women over 50, but can also strike women much younger.

Linda Forcione was just 24 when she discovered a lump during a self exam, but her own doctor did not believe it was cancer.

"I thought 'this is not normal. I didn't have that previous months,'" said Forcione. "He said 'oh you're too young. It's nothing. It's probably just a cyst."

Four doctors later she finally found one who agreed to do a biopsy "and that's when couple of days later we found out that it was a malignant tumour," said Forcione.

Two decades after being diagnosed Forcione is alive thanks to her own exam and insistence on a biopsy.

Over 900 young women aged 15 to 39 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Canada.

Over 100 die of it without ever having been close to the age of regular mammograms.