Last October, I was asked to speak about breast cancer awareness to a small group of women. My audience was well-educated and ranged in age from early thirties to early seventies. One thing that troubled me when I gave this talk was that very few of these women knew about a form of breast cancer that I hoped was now common knowledge, Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is the most aggressive form of breast cancer. Survival statistics and recurrence rates are much bleaker for IBC than for other types of breast cancer. It often goes undetected by mammograms and ultrasounds because it usually grows in nests or sheets, unlike the well publicized lump commonly recognized as a warning sign of breast cancer.
At every opportunity I like to review the signs and symptoms of breast cancer because, prior to my own diagnosis, I thought the only sign to look for was a lump. My personal experience taught me that a lump is not the only sign of breast cancer and that different types of breast cancer may have different warning signs.
The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation states that signs of inflammatory breast cancer may include:
- 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 retraction
- 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
- Lymph node swelling under the arm or above the collarbone
Note of Warning:
· If you suddenly develop a lump or mass, have it checked immediately.
· Increased breast density compared to prior mammograms should be considered suspicious.
· Remember: You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
A few weeks after giving the above mentioned talk, I learned that a dear friend and fellow advocate had been diagnosed with IBC. I was horrified to discover that she had been experiencing symptoms for some time, but did not recognize them as possible signs of breast cancer. According to IBC research, most women diagnosed with IBC had never heard of this form of breast cancer prior to their diagnosis.
This solidified in my mind the need to help raise public and medical awareness of IBC. Listed below are resources to help you better understand inflammatory breast cancer. Please use these resources to help you spread awareness to your friends and others in your community.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Video