Saturday, June 4, 2011

What is IBC?

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer? I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I was very wrong! It turns out that there are several types of breast cancer and you don’t even have to have a lump to have breast cancer. 
Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. I was one of the few lucky ones that actually have a lump along with IBC. Most women don't. Because I was diagnosed while my daughter was less than a month old I probably would have been misdiagnosed as having mastitis but because of the lump and the severity of my IBC my doctors did a biopsy right away. Most don't. Many women are given antibiotics and sent away not once but multiple times.

Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Survival rates for women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer are grim.  Only 25 to 50 percent of women will survive five years.  Believe it or not, this is a HUGE improvement over the survival statistics of just a few years ago — when only 1-2% could expect to be alive five years after diagnosis.  Even with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, 90% of women will suffer a recurrence.  This is a lifelong battle for those that are diagnosed, and it is a very difficult disease to battle, as it’s one of the few cancers that are obvious on the surface of the body; as it marches across a woman’s breast, it is very hard to watch. While the survival rates are still grim its expected that with new drugs that have been widely used just in the last few years we should start to see those statistics rise. One last thing about IBC and breast cancer in general it doesn't matter what race you are, what age you are or even if your male or female you are still at risk. Yes men can have this too. I was only 28 at the time of my diagnosis and while I felt way to young to have it I found out there are many more even younger than me who have also been diagnosed.

Thanks to Toddler Planet for letting IBCers all over the world "steal" and rewrite your blog.

For more information on IBC or to figure out how you can help visit

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