Since it’s been established that I know nothing about the possibilities of breast cancer, I did a little research tonight while nursing my baby to sleep. (I had nearly two hours, after all! After the first few minutes, he’s in his own little world, so I often watch TV on mute, read blogs, or read (gasp!) an actual book. It helps keep me patient through the marathon nursing this baby seems to need.) I hope my dear blog-friends Mrs. Chicken, Canape, and bon, who have all been deeply touched by their own experience with close relatives’ cancer, will forgive this novice attempt, but I’d like to share/record a bit of what I’m learning.
1. Young women (under 40) do get breast cancer. In fact,
- 1 in every 229 women between the ages of 30 and 39 will be diagnosed with breast cancer within the next 10 years — more than 11,100 women under 40 this year in the U.S. alone;
- There are more than 250,000 women living in the U.S. today who were age 40 or under when they were diagnosed with breast cancer;
- Young women’s cancers are generally more aggressive and result in lower survival rates;
- Young women are an underrepresented population in many research studies; and
- This year, more than 1100 women under 40 in the U.S. will die from breast cancer.
2. Not all cancers begin with a lump. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) does not typically present with a discrete lump, but it is no less dangerous for that. IBC is characterized by one or all of the following symptoms:
- Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days;
- Pink, red, or dark colored area (called erythema);
- Texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange);
- Ridges and thickened areas of the skin;
- What appears to be a bruise that does not go away;
- Nipple retraction;
- Breast is warm to the touch;
- Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains); and
- Change in color and texture of the areola.
These are indicitave signs, not definitive; the advice is to see your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms (I’ll be seeing mine next week; I have more than five but less than eight).
3. Patients need to be assertive and push for a biopsy if they really feel that something is amiss. IBC is usually not detected by mammograms or ultrasounds.
4. Although 60% of women and men diagnosed with IBC die within 5 years, 40% survive. That’s amazing, considering what cancer (and treatment!) put the body through.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston)’s latest newsletter reports that June is for celebrating cancer survivors … well, with this post I do too! HUZZAH to all of you out there — I have learned so much already, and I am humbled before the brave ones who are fighting this disease even today.