Healthy Living

Nov 18, 2009 12:32 AM by Monica Quintero

Special report on inflammatory breast cancer

When it comes to breast cancer women have heard it before- look for lumps, have a mammogram, see your doctor. But the problem is it's difficult to detect "Inflammatory Breast Cancer." It's also known as IBC. That's why some call it the "silent killer." It's a topic a local woman believes is critical to share with others. Geraldine Wade is an IBC survivor. She said, "Everybody else gets diagnosed with cancer but you don't think it's every going to happen to you."

Wade has been cancer free for about a year and a half. Wade said, "I'd never heard of it before. I was probably like all the millions of other people. I thought there was only one type of breast cancer. I thought when you had breast cancer, everybody had the same." What concerns doctors is that IBC is a very aggressive form of cancer. Wade said, "My symptoms were that I started getting a little bit of what they call orange peel and redness underneath my breast. I thought it was a rash like a heat rash. Not long after that my whole breast swelled up so I knew it had to be something pretty serious."

Dr. Monica Rocco is the Marian Cancer Center Surgical Director in Santa Maria. She specializes in breast cancer. Dr. Rocco said, "Patients can often think they have an infection and will go to their primary doctors and be thought to initially have an infection and treated with antibiotics. This can be very bad because it can delay the diagnosis." The most common symptoms for IBC include rapid increase in breast size, redness, skin hot to the touch, persistent itching and thickening of the breast tissue. Dr. Rocco said, "Sometimes it won't show up on a traditional mammogram or ultrasounds. What we do to make the diagnosis is we do a skin biopsy. It's just a very simple procedure where a full thickness skin biopsy is done. Sent to the pathologist and they can look to see if there's actually a tumor."

There is the other side of this topic. Dr. Rocco said the good news is that IBC is a rare form of cancer. She said out of the 150 cases of cancer she sees a year, typically only two of those are Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Dr. Rocco said, "It tends to occur in a much younger age group traditional cancer the average age is more in the 60's and 70's. This tends to occur more in the 50's and 60's." As for this cancer survivor, she's grateful hers was detected early. She's kept a positive outlook on life. Wade said, "Right after my first chemo treatment I went home walked my dog, watered my garden. I kept my life normal. I feel you survive better if you keep you life as normal as possible. You do feel tired that's why when you feel really tired you should rest. But I don't think you should stay in your pajamas, watch television and feel sorry for yourself."

The National Cancer Institute says IBC accounts for one to five percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States. Like other types of breast cancer, IBC can occur in men, but usually at an older age than in women. Some studies have shown an association between family history of breast cancer and IBC, but more studies are needed to draw better conclusions.

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