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Saturday, July 28, 2007

IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) - a Public Health Announcement

When I was 17, something strange happened to my left breast. It got red. It suddenly got very itchy, especially around the nipple; which then began to excrete a mysterious, clear liquid. As you'd expect, this was enough for my mother to take me to the doctor.

I had a mammogram - a procedure uncomfortable enough at the best of times, I hear, but especially so for 'younger' breasts, because there's so much more tissue to splodge together. It was all very bewildering.

The doctor had Serious Face: at the time, I believe, the 'C' word was even floated as a worse case scenario. I couldn't see how.

I'm no expert, but I think what whymommy describes in the below post (reproduced with her blessing) was what the doctors had in mind for me. I was lucky; whymommy hasn't been. Bravely fighting off her disease, she's asked anyone willing to become educated. Here's her story:

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

I hope you're all paying attention.

Comments on "IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) - a Public Health Announcement"


Anonymous Whymommy said ... (11:26 am) : 

I am SO GLAD that yours wasn't cancer! And that you got checked out so quickly and so well. Thanks for passing this along via your blog ... we all need to be aware, just in case!


Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said ... (10:24 pm) : 

Very educational. Many believe a lump is the start of it.


Blogger Ana said ... (2:15 am) : 

Hiya, I ventured onto your blog from Blogher. Thank you for sharing this post. I read further into your blog. I love your sense of humour! lol. Motherhood is definately about finding laughter in some of the most "laughless" situations. Your kids are precious! I will definately stop by often. Feel free to visit me whenever you can.


Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (6:52 am) : 

Glad to help, whymommy.

ana- welcome!! Nice to see you :)


Anonymous Linda Martin said ... (3:16 pm) : 

That was sad... and very educational. I am so sorry for anyone who has to suffer that way.


Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (3:20 pm) : 

me too Linda


Blogger Patricia Singleton said ... (3:35 pm) : 

Thanks for spreading the news. I am visiting from All Women Blogging Carnival #8


Blogger Sueblimely said ... (11:26 am) : 

I was unaware of this type of breast cancer. Thank you for making us aware of it. I have and stumbled and dugg your post and hope others do the same.


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