Getting the Word Out

Whymommy at Toddler Planet has a message to share. She’s a young wife and mother who was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer when her infant stopped nursing on one side. There was no lump and it appeared to be mastitis. Instead it was the very sneakiest form of breast cancer. But I’ll let her tell you about it:

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 figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

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. 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 of breast cancer 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.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

A couple other misconceptions that need to be addressed are these:

I’m too young for breast cancer.

If you’re old enough to have breasts then you’re old enough to get breast cancer. According to The American Cancer Society (ACS) more than 11,100 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with the disease this year and more than 1,100 will die from it.

I have no family history of breast cancer so I have nothing to worry about.

Another ACS statistic states 80% of breast cancer diagnoses are in women without a family history.

Because there is no good screening for women under 40 it’s very important to do your own screening. The Young Survivor Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to the concerns and issues of young women and breast cancer, has this to say:
The best tool for young women to find breast cancer early is to become familiar with their breasts: their shape, size, and what they feel like. Learn what is normal for you. Sometimes your breasts may change throughout your monthly cycle. If you are pregnant or nursing, your breasts will change even more dramatically. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor immediately and insist on a diagnosis. Also, beginning at age 20, have a yearly breast exam by a doctor. Start mammograms beginning at age 40.

15 Comments

  1. Katybug on August 1, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the info, Jenster AND Whymommy. We can never be too well informed or reminded too often. I pray you kick it in the butt, Whymommy!!!

  2. susan on August 1, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I had no idea. Thanks for the information. This is scarey stuff.

  3. Monnik on August 1, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Oh my gosh. I had no idea! Thanks to Whymommy for this information, and to Jenster for posting it.I pray that you send that cancer packing, Whymommy.

  4. Jodi_Lee on August 1, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Ugh…I can only imagine the anxiety she’s feeling. You do a little research to be informed and then you find out this! Whymommy, you will not be beaten by this cancer if we have anything to do with it…and we do, because we pray. 🙂

  5. Pokey Puppy on August 1, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    May god be with your friend.. i will pray for her. I had no idea.. but i do beleive FIRMLY that you know your body and if you ever think anything is not quite right.. go do as many doctors as it takes to get a diagnosis. I gained 45 lbs in three months after having my daughter… and kept being told by my obgyn that nothign was wrong with me.. everything is normal. It wasnt And now due to my thyroid dysorder i still can not get it off.

  6. Swishy on August 1, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Wow … thank you for that! I have zero breast cancer in my family and have always thought I was really lucky, but 80 percent?!?

  7. Gretchen on August 2, 2007 at 10:27 am

    I’ve linked to this post. Thanks, Jenster. xxxooogretchen

  8. Shauna on August 2, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Whoa! I had no idea. I’ve never given this much thought, just believing I’m too young. Thank you Jenster and Whymommy for this information. If it’s okay, I’d like to link to this on my blog as well. The more people informed, the better we can battle! Whymommy, we’ll fight with you! You’re in my prayers!

  9. whymommy on August 3, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Thanks, Jenster! I love the points you added — unfortunately, you’re never too young for breast cancer. IBC even has been diagnosed in girls as young as 12. Scary stuff!Shauna, you and everyone else are very welcome to link or repost my words on your blog — thank you all for spreading the word!

  10. radioactive girl on August 3, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Awesome that you reposted hers. I am getting to doing it too. I feel like it is an important cause that doesn’t seem to get much attention!

  11. Wanda on August 3, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Hi Jester! Just got back from LA and trying to catch up. Thanks for your comments while I was gone.and Thanks for all the information you give us!!!

  12. Jen on August 4, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Great post. That reminds me, I need to make an appointment for my annual exam. BIG HUGS to you Jenster!

  13. Eileen on August 5, 2007 at 11:25 am

    THANK YOU!! My friend and I are overdue for our mamograms, and just keep talking about making the call. This is the push I needed to make it. I appreciate this post so much. My prayers to your friend. I hope you are feeling better too! Sounds like you are up and around pretty good. Love.

  14. Dorky Dad on August 6, 2007 at 12:07 am

    I think I’m going to have my wife read this post.Thanks for sharing this!

  15. Mommy to 4 little people on August 9, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    WOW! I never heard of this form of BC before. OMG it is so scary to think. I also thought I was too young to worry about. Also I thought that if you breast fed your children (which I have with each of my 4 kids) that your chance of getting BC was GREATLY reduced. Hmmm….now I feel like I will have to take all of this more seriously. Thank you SO much for sharing this info. If I can figure out how to I will link this to my blog as well.

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