A Mother and her Two Daughters

22 September 2010

More Awareness About Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Today one of the featured columnist with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writes about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  While the article is very informative, I cannot help but somewhat scoff at the mention of a 90% recurrence rate.  In my own case, my medical team has indicated that my complete response to the chemotherapy treatment is a very good sign, and will likely reduce my chances of recurrence - by what percent, I'm not quite sure.  In addition, my upcoming six weeks of radiation therapy is an effort to reduce the recurrence rate even more so.  I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not going to hold on to a 90% recurrence rate.  I've beat the odds before and I fully intend to beat them again.  

I've said this before and I'll say it again - when Dr. Klimberg told me that I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I had never heard of this type of cancer before.  So, read up ladies, and then consider passing this article along to your family and friends.  This is a very rare but very aggressive breast cancer, and the likelihood of beating it largely depends on how quickly it is diagnosed.  Remember - not all breast cancers present themselves as a lump, and IBC is seldom found with a mammogram.  

Here is the excellent article by columnist Cathy Frye.  Thank you Cathy for making more women aware!  


Cancer red flags not just lumps
By Cathy Frye – Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

I’d like to discuss a type of breast cancer many of you probably haven’t heard of: inflammatory breast cancer, known as IBC. 

It is sneaky and also the most deadly. 
Yet while we are reminded regularly to check ourselves for lumps, most of us don’t know the signs and symptoms of IBC. 
I found out about it several years ago, completely by accident, via a blog for mothers I had just started reading. 
The author, Susan Niebur, is an astrophysicist living in Maryland. She has two little boys, one of them only 3 years old. 
At the time I tuned in, she had just given birth to her youngest and was grappling with what she thought was an annoying case of mastitis, an infection that sometimes affects nursing women. 
Even as she suffered from pain and worry, Susan was busily researching IBC because her mother-in-law had just been diagnosed with it. 
“As I read through the symptoms, I had the strangest feeling, scoffing, ‘Well, I have that. And I have that. Hmmm, I have that too,’” she said later. 
Susan returned to her doctor, who sent her to a specialist. That’s when Susan learned that she, too, had a disease she had previously never heard about. 
Because Susan is a scientist, she researched her treatment options meticulously, armed with a little more knowledge than your average patient. 

Now, three years after her diagnosis — and after battling a recent recurrence — Susan is cancer-free. 

She’s a fighter, yes. But Susan also was determined to survive for her two boys. She couldn’t bear the thought that she might die before they were old enough to remember her. 

So, what exactly is IBC? 

There is no lump. The cancer forms in sheets, or nests. Susan describes it as having a bird’s nest of cancer growing within your breast. 

The earliest signs may resemble mastitis, a bug bite or sunburn. 

Here’s a more specific list: 
  • Swelling, usually sudden, and sometimes more than a cup size within a few days. 
  • Itching. 
  • Ridges and thickened areas of the skin. 
  • A pink, red or dark-colored area, sometimes with texture similar to an orange. 
  • Nipple retraction or discharge. 
  • Breast pain. 
  • The breast may feel hot or warm to the touch. 
  • Change in color and texture of the areola. 

 Susan probably puts it best when she says that this cancer causes the breast to swell and turn red as if in anger. 

The prognosis is grim. Only 25 percent to 50 percent of IBC patients will survive five years. Still, it’s an improvement over earlier statistics, when only 1 percent to 2 percent of women lived that long. 
Ninety percent will have a recurrence, like Susan. 
So please, be aware that a lump isn’t always the tipoff. Tell your friends. Ask your obstetrician/gynocologist to pass the word, because what makes this cancer even more deadly is the silence that surrounds it. 
For more information, visit research.org. 

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