I could not let this month go by without talking about breast cancer. As you may notice on the sidebar I wear pink for my mother who died of breast cancer back in 1999. You hear alot about the 2 main types of breast cancer, however, you rarely hear about the type my mother died of. This type of breast cancer is called Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
When my mother was finally diagnosed with cancer it was in February and she died May 31. Yes, that fast. My mother did not notice any symptoms until after she fell in a furniture store while shopping and later on found a bruise on her breast that would not go away. She fell I believe on the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend of 1998. When she finally went to get it checked out, the tests came back negative or no cancer. Then in the beginning of February 1999 when she still had the bruise it came back as stage 4.
My grandmother would tell a story about an aunt who died from being kicked in the breast from a cow. (hmm probably had the same thing)
Inflammatory Breast Cancer, or IBC as it is often called, is rare and the most aggressive form of breast cancer. It is different from the more common types of breast cancer because often times there is no significant lump found in the breast. Self-exams and mammograms often do not detect this type of breast cancer. The tumor is actually just under the skin in the lymphatic system and lies flat like a sheet. It is not until the cancer has progressed that symptoms appear.
Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days
Pink, red, or dark-colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange)
Ridges and thickened areas of the skin
Nipple discharge, may or may not be bloody
Breast is warm to the touch
Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains)
Change in color and texture of the areola
Not much research has been done on this type of breast cancer and the 3 year survival rate is poor at only 42%. It doesn’t help that some doctors do not know much about this cancer because it is a rare form only accounting for under 5% of all breast cancers in the United States. Another issue is the symptoms are similar to a breast infection so doctors usually put the patient on antibiotics first which delay any prognosis. It is only after the antibiotics and mammograms (which probably came back negative), that further testing is done because symptoms still have not gone away. This is critical time wasted for the survival of the patient.
excerpt from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation: IBC: Introduction to Research
Recently, anecdotal reports suggest that IBC patients may experience specific symptoms associated with IBC that have not yet been recognized as characteristics that could be used to improve IBC diagnosis (see Symptoms of IBC). Unfortunately, the lack of uniformity in criteria for IBC diagnosis can result in misdiagnosis of IBC as other breast conditions 9 and treatment delay
Laboratory-based research on IBC has been limited because little, if any, pre-treatment tumor tissue is available for research. While at many institutions specimens that are collected for diagnosis are not available for research, residual tissues can be used for research. However, because IBC diagnosis is usually accomplished through needle biopsy, which yields few tumor cells, or skin biopsy, little or no tissue is available for research. Moreover, because current standard of care recommends neoadjuvant therapy followed by surgery, any tissue retrieved after surgery is likely to be altered by adjuvant chemotherapy. The research that has used IBC specimens has focused primarily upon identifying prognostic factors more than evaluating molecular alterations associated with disease development.
There is finally some new research studies being done. There is a call out for patients with IBC to get involved. More has to be done as the survival rate of 42% is unacceptable.
Following are the links for more information on Inflammatory Breast Cancer:
The National Cancer Institute
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
The University of Texas MD Anderson Research Center Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program
Together our voices will be heard. Together we can make a change. One step at a time. One day at a time. Collectively we can do it!!
Have a Great Day!!