Research I

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;
  • Itching;
  • 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.

11 Responses to Research I

  1. canape says:

    There are 2 sides to every statistic. As you well know, but some of your readers may not, my momma is on the slim side of all the survival rates. Breast cancer before 40. Late stage ovarian cancer. And a recurrence of that ovarian cancer. She kicks cancer’s ass.

    Huzzah indeed. Here’s to the up side of statistics.

    Thanks for the education.

  2. NYfriend says:

    Knowledge is power, so it’s great you are doing some upfront research. 🙂 (And it’s one of your fortes).

    In your #2 list – symptoms of IBC, I count 6 of them that are also signs of mastitis. A very likely possibility in your case. Of course get yourself checked out, but keep this in mind too and question anything that doesn’t ring true in your gut.

    There are lots of statistics out there, try this one on for size (hee hee!):
    “In 1991 researchers at Harvard noticed that women who did not wear bras had a 60% lower rate of breast cancer than women who wore them.”

    So Ladies, set ’em free!! 🙂 🙂

    Big hugs, hang in there WhyMommy, you’ll figure this out and attack whatever the cause is with great fervor.

  3. IBC is often misdiagnosed for a while as mastitis, or even something like spider bites, depending on the symptoms. That’s what makes it so tricky, many of the symptoms “could be/might be” and as such get either ignored or mistreated, even by some health professionals. Peau d’orange (and nipple retraction too) though are not generally associated with mastitis. Either of those alone would warrant a speedy visit to a specialist. Having a number of the symptoms listed is definitely a reason to take this very seriously. The sooner you get in, the more options you have and will put you in a better position to kick some serious ass.

    Still holding you very close in my thoughts.

  4. lifewiththeothers says:

    currently 31 and awaiting reconstruction, i will be keeping my fingers crossed for you and awaiting to hear (hopefully good) news. i suggest you check out the discussion boards at there’s a great bunch of supportive and knowledgeable ladies on there!


  5. NYfriend says:

    Robin’s comments are a good example of why it’s so important to listen to your gut.

    If you’re gut tells you this is not serious, then be sure to not engage in any testing that is riskier than the problem.

    However, if your doctor tries to dismiss something as not serious and your gut tells you something is WRONG, then keep digging, fight to find the answer.

    Hugs WhyMommy, I’m just a phone call away if you want to talk.

  6. whymommy says:

    Thanks, y’all. It’s the peau d’orange which concerns me (and my OB!) most. It’s really weird! But he’s also got some concerns about texture and thickening, etc. So off I go. As soon as I can get in. My scheduled appointment is too far off, so I’m now on the standby list! Hoping that someone else has a cancellation and I can get over there in time….

  7. I am here, reading, trying to support you without knowing quite how. Just thinking about you, worrying, waiting along with you.


  8. Bon says:

    i’ve been slack in my reading for the last week or so and i’d missed all this…dude. holding you tight in my thoughts…waiting along with you.

    thanks for letting us in, letting us offer what we can, even if it isn’t more than telling you we care and that we’ll listen.

  9. NYfriend says:

    I just read a news story that said:
    “Dr. Carol Van Haelst with Evergreen Medical Center’s Cascade Cancer Center … says the best way to detect it [IBC] is with a biopsy or an MRI.”

    I hope an MRI proves to be a valid option for you versus a biopsy.

  10. spacemom says:

    I just read several of your last posts.

    First, I understand you being scared. I had a visit to an onocologist during my first pregnancy that scared the hell out of me.

    Second, you are a scientist. Stop and remember the stats. Remember how Gaussian and Poisson stats work. This goes for both the occurence and healing of cancers.

    Please know you are in my thoughts…

  11. Mrs. Chicken says:

    Knowledge is power, friend.

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