Inflammatory Breast Cancer Alert
- Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease with symptoms that include redness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the breast.
- Treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is usually more aggressive than treatment for most other types of breast cancer.
- People with inflammatory breast cancer are encouraged to enroll in clinical trials that are testing new treatments.
Additional features of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:
- Compared with other types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer tends to be diagnosed at younger ages (median age of 57 years, compared with a median age of 62 years for other types of breast cancer).
- It is more common and diagnosed at younger ages in African American women than in white women. The median age at diagnosis in African American women is 54 years, compared with a median age of 58 years in white women.
- Inflammatory breast tumors are frequently hormone receptor negative, which means that hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen, that interfere with the growth of cancer cells fueled by estrogen may not be effective against these tumors.
- Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in obese women than in women of normal weight.
Like other types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer can occur in men, but usually at an older age (median age at diagnosis of 66.5 years) than in women.
Until two weeks ago, I had never heard of inflammatory breast cancer — and then our lovely, twenty-eight year old niece was diagnosed with it! Of all the people I’ve talked to during this time, only one had any knowledge of the disease, so I thought I should let everyone know about it …..
My mother was a 40-year survivor of breast cancer, so it has certainly been part of my consciousness for a very, very long time. I have also grown comforted by the very positive recovery statistics over the years, though I don’t speak lightly of this for anyone.
However, inflammatory breast cancer is different (and thankfully very rare) – by the time many people are diagnosed properly, it’s a stage 3 or 4 cancer. There are no lumps or tumors – often a rash appears, followed by tenderness or soreness, enlarging of the breast, redness and/or hardness. Often with a rash, women think little of it or “think it will go away on it’s own” and don’t rush to their doctor. I can tell you, time is very much of the essence – it can have a VERY RAPID matastasis.
In our niece’s case, she felt a tenderness and soreness and sought her doctor’s advise early. Initially she was told that maybe it was a pulled muscle given that she works out a lot. It got worse and she was admitted to the ER and given mega doses of antibiotic – also important to know, is that the symptoms can mimic those of mastitis – an inflammatory breast tissue condition cased by bacteria usually through the nipple – as you probably know, this occurs mostly in women who are breast-feeding. She was also told at that time, given her young age and the fact that she didn’t have a baby, that she should see a breast specialist. And that’s how this all started to unfold – biopsies, PET scans, MRIs……
Luckily for her, we’ve learned that it is early and hasn’t spread, but today she started a very intense bi-weekly round of chemo-therapy for four months, after which her breast will be removed and then she will have radiation treatments. And that was the GOOD news!! She is fortunate to have incredible care from Boston’s Dana Farber Hospital and while the treatment will be awful, she was told this is not only “treatable, but curable” (Out breath,there). We hold her in our love and prayers.
I am telling you all of this, because others are not so lucky. BTW, we also learned that this condition is more prevalent among younger women and those of both African American descent and Ashkenazi Jewish descent. The symptoms can be so “normal” and yet so few of us know about this, I wanted to share and hope you do so as well with the women in your life. There is also much in the gene research about this and testing is available.
I won’t say more that’s above my pay grade, but please share this information with those you love and do more research. This fact sheet link may be a helpful start.