I’m over at Workout Mommy’s place today — if you’d like a guest post on IBC for your blog, drop me a line and I’ll write one just for you too (or you can cut-and-paste the one below. It’s yours, no problem, just please link back to me and let me know you did). It’s still important to get the word out — as much as I’d like to move on and forget about it, it’s not like people have STOPPED getting IBC since I finished my treatment. In fact, an estimated 25,000 women have been diagnosed with IBC since I was diagnosed in June 2007, and many have died because they weren’t diagnosed before it had spread too far. Let’s keep spreading the word — there’s more than one kind of breast cancer, and inflammatory breast cancer is the cancer without a lump.
Inflammatory breast cancer
There’s more than one kind of breast cancer. Did you know that? During October, we’re so often flooded with “buy pink” campaigns, and reminders to check ourselves for lumps, that it’s become almost commonplace. We all know that we should do regular self exams, and we’ve heard it so often that the urgency often fades into the background of children, spouses, laundry, and work. But did you know that there’s a kind of breast cancer that forms without a tell-tale lump?
It’s called inflammatory breast cancer, and it spreads FAST. The cancer forms in thin sheets, or in nests, like a bird’s nest of cancer growing inside your breast. There are few external signals or symptoms, and they’re sneaky too, since most of them are similar to mastitis, which many of us have experienced while breastfeeding a baby, or bug bites, or sunburn. But taken together, one or more of these symptoms can signal a dangerous cancer lurking in your breast.
What are the symptoms? Here’s a list, from the IBC Research Foundation:
* 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
There’s a great illustration of these symptoms over at Worldwide Breast Cancer that is guaranteed to be not like anything you’ve seen before….
In my mind, it boils down to this. If you notice ANYTHING DIFFERENT on one breast that’s not on the other breast, please CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Today. Because this cancer moves fast, faster than almost any other cancer, and is deadly. Only 40% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.
In the 2.5 years since my diagnosis, I’ve already lost a dozen friends to cancer. Many of them were moms and bloggers, readers just like you. They fought hard. They fought with everything they had. But cancer treatment is largely still in the experimental stages, and it’s a tough road. Just to be here today, I had to not only survive cancer, but also survive 6 months of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of daily radiation, 2 surgeries to remove my breasts and ovaries, and a lot of physical therapy to deal with lymphedema, which makes my arm swell in the heat when I step outside (as a lovely side effect of the mastectomy that took all my lymph nodes on that side). It’s been a hard, hard road, but I’m grateful for the chance to be here today, to hug my children, to play their games, to laugh at their knock-knock jokes.
There is joy after cancer. But first we have to get there. So please, take a moment, call/email/blog/tweet/update your friends, and SHARE the SIGNS of inflammatory breast cancer with the people you care about. You never know. You might just save a life.