Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The "Silent Killer."

We have all been warned that the best detection for breast cancer is a mammogram. A mammogram does not detect inflammatory breast cancer - excisional biopsy, MRI, or a breast ultrasound may be used to confirm the diagnosis. There are no lumps.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an extremely deadly cancer because women are not aware of what to look for. This form of breast cancer is rare, very aggressive, and develops very rapidly. One victim of this cancer died at the age of 16. She was too embarrassed to tell her mother that her breast looked a little funny.

The affected breast is red, swollen and tender. It is a locally advanced cancer, meaning it has spread from its point of origin to nearby tissue and possibly to nearby lymph nodes. Inflammatory breast cancer can easily be confused with a breast infection, but if it is cancer, symptoms will not go away with antibiotics, you should seek medical attention immediately if you notice skin changes on your breast, to help distinguish a breast infection from other breast disorders. Symptoms: despite its name, inflammatory breast cancer does not cause inflammation the way an infection does. Signs and symptoms include:

Rapid change in the appearance of one breast, over the
course of days or weeks

Thickness, heaviness of visible enlargement of one breast

Discoloration, giving the breast a red, purple, pink or
bruised appearance

Unusual warmth of the affected breast

Dimpling or ridges on the skin of the affected breast,
similar to an orange peel


Tenderness, pain or aching

Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, above the collarbone
or below the collarbone

Flattening or turning inward of the nipple

Swollen or crusted skin on the nipple

Change in color of the skin around the nipple (areola).
Inflammatory breast cancer tends to affect women at an average age of 59 - about three to seven years younger than the average age at which other types of breast cancer are diagnosed. Men can develop the disease, but at an older age. African-American women appear to be at a higher risk of inflammatory breast cancer than are white women.

About one-third of newly diagnosed inflammatory breast cancers are stage IV - the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, such as bones and liver. Treatment for inflammatory breast cancer starts with chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation therapy. About half the women diagnosed with the condition survive five or more years, and nearly one-third are alive 20 years after diagnosis. Even after treatment with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, recurrence rates remain high for inflammatory breast cancer.

I was not aware there were different types of breast cancer, and especially not aware of inflammatory breast cancer until a family member was diagnosed in February 2008, and given two months to live. After treatment with chemotherapy and radiation the outlook improved , and the doctor gave her two years to live in June 2008. After a check-up in August 2008, the doctor gave her two months to live, she passed away October 2008.

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