Monday, 4 February 2008
A Lump Is Not Necessary To Have Breast Cancer
I have been asking myself why I didn't insist with my doctor that I had breast cancer. The first time I saw her for this complaint I remember my first words when she checked me were "I don't have breast cancer do I?" hee hee, kinda, DO I? "Oh no" she says "you don't have a lump." Okay right, she's right, I don't have a lump. Nor do I have a history of breast cancer or for that matter any kind of cancer in my family. We are a family exempt of cancer. I will definitely have a heart attack because I am built like a ball and we have a history of heart disease in our family.
I went back and forth to this doctor as my breast got worse and worse and each time, I'm like "I don't have breast cancer do I?" and each time I got the same response. I was sent for a mammogram and it came back with no change from the mammogram I had two years previously. By the end of the six months (which is a death sentence in IBC) I was finally sent to a breast surgeon who confirmed that "YES, in fact I do have breast cancer." no hee hee, no kinda, just a you DO.
I understand that my doctor had never seen IBC like this before (she did have a patient that had IBC but it presented differently than mine). The funny thing is I still like this doctor, I know that she crucifies herself for her mistake, I know that she is a medical doctor and not a magical doctor. I know, I know, I know. I just can't help thinking if only she had been more informed about this or at least given me something to see if it was an infection or sent me to a breast surgeon earlier like I asked her too.
I have a huge part to play in this because after all it is MY life, not hers. I have to be my own advocate, and for Christ's sake I was 49 years old. I wish I was one of those people who knowing something was seriously wrong would have insisted, because I knew something was seriously wrong. I never wanted to be the squeaky wheel, now I wish I was. I want this to be a warning to all of you. Trust yourself. Know that you know what you know.
Over and over in my head I played out the myths of breast cancer. Lump. Mother or aunt had breast cancer. Had late periods. Never had children. Never breastfed. Mammogram was clean. I fit in to none of those myths. That is why today I want to give some information to other women about IBC. Please look at the facts and more than that please have faith in yourself.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATORY BREAST CANCER:
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but very aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed.” IBC accounts for 1 to 5% of all breast cancers. It tends to be diagnosed in younger women compared to non-IBC breast cancer. It occurs more frequently and at a younger age in African Americans than in Whites. 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 firm conclusions.
Symptoms of IBC may include redness, swelling, and warmth in the breast, often without a distinct lump in the breast. The redness and warmth are caused by cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised. The skin may also have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange), which is caused by a buildup of fluid and edema (swelling) in the breast. Other symptoms include heaviness, burning, aching, increase in breast size, tenderness, or a nipple that is inverted (facing inward). These symptoms usually develop quickly—over a period of weeks or months. Swollen lymph nodes may also be present under the arm, above the collarbone, or in both places. However, it is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other conditions such as infection, injury, or other types of cancer.
Diagnosis of IBC is based primarily on the results of a doctor’s clinical examination. Biopsy, mammogram, and breast ultrasound are used to confirm the diagnosis. IBC is classified as either stage IIIB or stage IV breast cancer. Stage IIIB breast cancers are locally advanced; stage IV breast cancer is cancer that has spread to other organs. IBC tends to grow rapidly, and the physical appearance of the breast of patients with IBC is different from that of patients with other stage III breast cancers. IBC is an especially aggressive, locally advanced breast cancer.Cancer staging describes the extent or severity of an individual’s cancer. Knowing a cancer’s stage helps the doctor develop a treatment plan and estimate prognosis (the likely outcome or course of the disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence).
Treatment consisting of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy is used to treat IBC. Patients may also receive supportive care to help manage the side effects of the cancer and its treatment. Chemotherapy (anticancer drugs) is generally the first treatment for patients with IBC, and is called neoadjuvant therapy. Chemotherapy is systemic treatment, which means that it affects cells throughout the body. The purpose of chemotherapy is to control or kill cancer cells, including those that may have spread to other parts of the body.After chemotherapy, patients with IBC may undergo surgery and radiation therapy to the chest wall. Both radiation and surgery are local treatments that affect only cells in the tumor and the immediately surrounding area.
After initial systemic and local treatment, patients with IBC may receive additional systemic treatments to reduce the risk of recurrence (cancer coming back). Such treatments may include additional chemotherapy, hormonal therapy (treatment that interferes with the effects of the female hormone estrogen, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells), targeted therapy (such as trastuzumab, also known as Herceptin®), or all three. Trastuzumab is administered to patients whose tumors overexpress the HER–2 tumor protein. -- Posted in Inflamatory Breast Cancer.
I know that this was probably long and boring, but if only I had bored myself with it earlier. That is the end of it though, I can't live in what ifs, or shouldas, I have to live with right now.
Ciao dear ones. (I love the word ciao)