It’s so important to examine your breasts regularly – without being obsessive – and if you detect any changes get a check up. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer or the symptoms don’t go away, don’t leave it, take charge, be seen and be heard. Chances are it will be nothing. But if you have that nagging doubt in your mind, listen to your gut.

Love your Breasts!

I used to have good breasts, that was 11 years ago now, a distant memory unfortunately. But fortunately I found the cancer early and actually diagnosed myself.

Work was very busy at the time, I was doing wardrobe on a TV Commercial and my right breast was sore, slightly bigger than the left, felt hot and inflamed and it also had a rash in the center of it. Breast cancer didn’t even cross my mind, so of course I soldiered on.

After a few days I thought I’d better have a check-up so I went to my GP who thought it might be an infection or a possible spider bite, so she gave me antibiotics. These didn’t make any difference to the symptoms.

So I went to see the GP again and she referred me to a breast specialist, still breast cancer didn’t cross my mind and the GP made no mention of it either - no lump right! I had a mammogram and nothing showed up, the breast specialist gave me more antibiotics. Still nothing changed but I carried on as normal despite the discomfort.

I was content at that stage to leave it, I mean two doctors and a mammogram and no mention of cancer, I was sure it would resolve itself soon. But I began to have that nagging feeling in my head so began searching the net for answers. All I goggled was inflamed breast and the first site to come up mentioned the words ‘inflammatory breast cancer’ with a list that read like the past 10 days.

  • Doctors misdiagnose inflammatory breast cancer as a breast infection or mastitis
  • Mammograms often don’t pick up IBC as there is often no lump
  • Can look like a spider bite

You can imagine my shock when reading this. I immediately made an appointment with the breast specialist for the following morning.  The doctor turned pale and left the room when I mentioned it looked like IBC. He came back 10 minutes later to say they would be giving me an ultra sound and an immediate biopsy. The next morning he rang and said to me, “You were right, it is Inflammatory Breast Cancer’.

And so began the next chapter of my life…

 

60% of women don’t know the signs beyond a lump, so it’s a good idea to learn the signs and different symptoms. Early detection means survival.

 

Signs of IBC

Inflammatory breast cancer doesn't normally occur as a breast lump and has a peculiar growth pattern, its symptoms are not typical signs of cancer, and may appear to be something else.

IBC symptoms may include one or some of the below:

  • A breast that appears discolored; (red, purple, pink or bruised)
  • A tender, firm and enlarged breast (sometimes overnight)
  • A warm feeling in the breast (or may feel hot/warm to the touch)
  • Persistent Itching of the breast (not relieved with cream or salve)
  • Shooting or stabbing pain
  • Ridged or dimpled skin texture, similar to an orange peel
  • Thickened areas of breast tissue
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, above/below the collarbone
  • Flattening or retraction of the nipple
  • Swollen or crusted skin on the nipple
  • Change in color of the skin around the nipple (areola)
  • A hardened area in the breast similar to a pencil lead, not a lump

 

If one or more of these symptoms continue for more than a week, talk to a physician immediately. Demand that your doctor "rules out" IBC and

insist that your physician take your temperature at initial exam. Mastitis is often accompanied by an increase in body temperature, while IBC is not.

Become your own best advocate - it may save your life.

 

If you are diagnosed with IBC find an expert with experience in treating this particular type of breast cancer. MD Anderson Clinic in Texas has established the first IBC Clinic in the World and even though I live in New Zealand I was able to make contact with them to discuss the best course of treatment, which was incredible.

 

More information on IBC can be found at the following sites:

http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/cancer-information/cancer-types/inflammatory-breast-cancer/index.html

http://www.eraseibc.com

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-breast-cancer/basics/definition/con-20035052