Inflammatory Breast Cancer Also Known as the “Silent Killer”
76 year old Janet Ybarra doesn't take much for granted these days, and even finds humor in her disease. "The temporary thing to fill your bra up with is a pain," laughed Janet," I can't get it molded right, or the right size, but I keep working at it. At least it doesn't fall out anymore, I pinned it in!"
Janet still smiles despite her daily radiation treatments for Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She first noticed something wasn't right when a rash appeared on her breast. It was something she first dismissed as heat rash or an allergic reaction. "Those are the first signs. Those are the things you need to take care of. If I had done that, the disease may not have progressed as far," said Janet.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer is also known as the "silent killer'' that affects one to three percent of women. Many women, like Janet, don't realize anything was wrong, and dismiss what they think are common symptoms. Things like a swelling or thickening of the breast, a rash or a bruise that doesn't go away, itching or pain, a dimple in the skin or retraction of the nipple. Many feel because there's no lump, there's nothing to worry about. But you don't have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
Janet was fortunate, if you could call it that. A lump did appear in her breast 2 months later, which was the only reason she went to see her doctor. After her diagnosis, she immediately started chemotherapy, and was scheduled for a mastectomy. "You cannot stop and think about it or worry about it. You've got to move now, if you want to have any chance at all," said Janet.
Dr. Ray Rudolph, co founder of the Center for Breast Care at Memorial Health, treats three to four new patients each year with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. He said the cancer actually spreads through the lymph channels in the skin itself, and that's what causes the skin to change. By the time the symptoms first appear, the patient is typically already in the end stages of the disease." When the cancer gets into the lymphatic's, it's very hard to control," said Dr. Rudolph.
Even though most women are diagnosed in stages three and four, new and better treatments are helping them beat the disease. It used to be once a woman was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, doctors wouldn't even treat them. Researchers have found patients do better with chemo first, surgery second, then radiation. Now the survival rate is fifty percent at five years." This is not a death sentence for a woman who has inflammatory breast cancer. There are patients who survive the disease and have long, full lives afterward," explained Dr. Rudolph.
Janet plans on being one of those women. She's just finishing up her radiation treatment and hopes to be in remission. "I expect to be here a while, I'm not through yet," smiled Janet.
Doctor Rudolph says the best way to catch the disease in it's earliest stages is to do a monthly breast exam -- and have a routine mammogram.
Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti; firstname.lastname@example.org