How To Distinguish Ibc From Other More Common Conditions
It can be hard to distinguish breast changes caused by inflammatory breast cancer from other common conditions, such as an ordinary rash, allergic reaction, or infection. Thats why its important to see a health care provider as soon as you notice any of these changes to figure out the cause and get treatment, if necessary.
You’re Experiencing Abnormal Discharge
While nipple discharge from breast milk is totally normal, if you’re noticing discharge that’s clear or bloody, that’s something you should get checked out since it could be a sign of breast cancer, says the National Breast Cancer Foundation. If you have discharge that’s milky, it could be something else, like hormonal changes or certain medication use.
Your Nipple Is Turning Inward
If your nipple is starting to turn inward when it wasn’t retracted before, it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, which is much more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, says the American Cancer Society. Because of that, you should book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss any concerning changes.
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Treatment For Inflammatory Breast Cancer
The treatment for inflammatory breast cancer can be slightly different to other types of breast cancer.
You usually have chemotherapy as your first treatment. This is called neo adjuvant chemotherapy. It helps to control the cancer cells in the breast and reduces the swelling. It also aims to destroy any cancer cells that might have spread elsewhere in the body.
After chemotherapy you have surgery unless there is a reason why this isn’t suitable for you. You are most likely to have your whole breast removed .
Some women might be able to have breast conserving surgery. For this type of surgery, the surgeon removes the area of cancer and a surrounding area of healthy tissue. But for most women, mastectomy is the best option.
The surgeon usually removes the lymph nodes under your armpit.
After surgery you have radiotherapy to the remaining breast tissue. This is to help stop the cancer coming back.
Other drug treatment you may have
You have hormone therapy tablets for some years if your breast cancer has hormone receptors. Your doctor might recommend that you also have targeted cancer therapy, such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab, if your cancer has receptors for those drugs.
You may be able to have breast reconstruction after you have finished your treatment . Do ask your surgeon, they can tell you whether this is suitable for you.
Would You Know The Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a rare and little known form of breast cancer. Most of us know that to protect ourselves against breast cancer we need to check regularly for lumps. That is what we have been told to do. That, and getting annual mammograms. But there are other signs and symptoms which can signal the presence of IBC. How do I know them? I learned the hard way.
My 37 year old healthy, athletic daughter was diagnosed with IBC in September of 2003. In just a few months she went from thinking she was very healthy to the reality that IBC had invaded her body. My daughter besieged me to write about this form of cancer, to get the word out to women and men, about this little talked about breast cancer. Did she have symptoms? Not the type we are all told to watch for. What happened to her is related below in her own words.
I had been working out for about 8 months, with a trainer. All the other women in my workout class were getting fit and trim, but I just got heavier and seemed to build muscle in my arms, legs, and breast. In April of 2003 I decided to quit the weights and the workouts and try to shed some of the pounds, which I did quite quickly. I lost 25 to 30 pounds rapidly.
Almost overnight I noticed that the nipple on my right breast seemed slightly inverted and was bigger than my left. Being right handed, I thought it was all the weight lifting and shedding of pounds that caused this oddity.
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Analyzing The Biopsy Sample
Analyzing the sample removed during the biopsy helps your doctor learn about specific features of a cancer and determine treatment options.
Your doctor may recommend additional laboratory tests on your tumor sample to identify specific genes, proteins, and other factors unique to the tumor. This helps your doctor find out the subtype of cancer.
The Ctca Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program: Designed For The Unique Needs Of Ibc Patients
Because of the aggressive nature of IBC, CTCA knows its critical to detect and diagnose the disease quickly, develop a comprehensive treatment plan and provide integrative care services that help improve patients treatment outcomes and reduce their side effects.
Thats why we developed the CTCA Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program, where our team of breast cancer experts work quickly to properly diagnose and stage each patient’s disease so she can make more informed decisions about her treatment options. Our breast cancer experts collaborate daily, allowing them to reach a diagnosis more efficiently and provide an individualized care plan designed to allow you to start treatment as soon as possible. The team also offers opportunities to enroll qualified patients in carefully selected clinical trials in areas such as immunotherapy and genomically targeted chemotherapy.
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of IBC and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if youre interested in a second opinion for breast cancer at CTCA, or chat online with a member of our team.
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‘i Had Fevers And Difficulty Breastfeeding’
I was misdiagnosed with mastitis twice because I had high fevers and trouble breastfeeding. It turned out to be cancer. Tumors were blocking the milk ducts. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at age 32, five weeks after I had my first child. It didnt look like mastitis at all. So many people told me ‘100% chance’ it is nothing. No one thought of any alternative, however, until multiple courses of treatment failed.
Melissa Thompson, healthcare policy advocate, Stamford, Connecticut
Who Is At Risk
IBC is more common in females than males, but its possible for males to develop it, too. Research tells us that women from African-Caribbean backgrounds have the highest risk of developing IBC, and having a close family member who has had breast cancer is also associated with increased risk. Obesity is another risk factor for IBC.
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How Inflammatory Breast Cancer Is Diagnosed
Breast imaging tests
- Diagnostic mammography. A diagnostic mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. An x-ray is a way to create a picture of the structures inside of the body using a small amount of radiation. It is similar to a screening mammography, which is used to look for a possible breast tumor in people who have no symptoms. A diagnostic mammography is often used when a person is experiencing signs, such as nipple discharge or a new lump. It may also be used if something suspicious is found on a screening mammogram.
- Ultrasound. An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the breast tissue. An ultrasound can distinguish between a solid mass, which may be cancer, and a fluid-filled cyst, which is usually not cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging . An MRI uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. An MRI can be used to measure the tumors size. A special dye called a contrast medium is given into the patients vein before the scan to help create a clear picture of the possible cancer. A breast MRI may be used after a diagnosis of breast cancer to check the other breast for cancer or to find out how much the disease has grown throughout the breast. It may also be used for screening, along with mammography, for those with a very high risk of developing breast cancer.
When To See A Health Care Provider About Changes To The Skin Of The Breast
Even though breast skin changes usually dont mean anything serious, it’s important to know when you might actually need medical attention.
If wearing more breathable fabrics avoiding soaps and detergents that cause skin sensitivity and keeping your breasts clean and dry doesnt seem to help with the skin changes youre seeing, or if you notice your symptoms worsening, be sure to check in with a health care provider. And be sure to visit a health care provider if you notice any of these accompanying symptoms:
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What Are The Diagnostic Criteria For Ibc
Currently, there are no definitive molecular or pathological diagnostic criteria for IBC. Therefore, the diagnosis is based on clinical findings: rapid onset of symptoms and signs, erythema and edema of the skin of the breast , and ridging. The absence of definitive diagnostic criteria and the rarity of this disease make delayed diagnosis a common, costly mistake .
Workup for inflammatory breast cancer.
In 1956, the first diagnostic criteria for IBC were established by Haagensen on the basis of clinical findings . One of the important clinical characteristics of IBC is lymphatic blockage caused by tumor emboli. Because one series indicated that patients with dermal lymphatic involvement had a poor prognosis, dermal lymphatic involvement was considered a definitive diagnostic criterion for IBC . However, proving dermal lymphatic involvement requires a skin punch biopsy, which is not commonly performed. Further, sampling error may lead to a missed diagnosis of dermal lymphatic involvement. Reports indicate that dermal lymphatic involvement is confirmed in < 75% of IBC cases, even with a comprehensive examination for such involvement . Currently, dermal lymphatic involvement is not required for the diagnosis of IBC.
Breast Cancer Symptoms: What You Need To Know
Finding breast cancer early usually makes it easier to treat. Along with getting regular screening mammograms, being aware of how your breasts look and feel is an important part of early detection. Some breast cancer signs are detected best by mammogram. Other signs may be more easily seen as changes in how the breasts look or feel.
It is important to know that not all changes in the breasts are cancer. Benign breast conditions are much more common than breast cancer. But it is important to let your health care team know about any changes in your breast so they can be looked into.
Below are some common breast symptoms that should be checked right away.
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Changes In The Size And Shape Of The Breast
Its not uncommon for breasts to swell, and you may notice a change in size around the time of your menstrual cycle.
Swelling can also cause breast tenderness, and it may be slightly uncomfortable to wear a bra or lie down on your stomach. This is perfectly normal and rarely indicative of breast cancer.
But while your breasts may undergo certain changes at different times of the month, you shouldnt overlook some changes. If you notice your breasts swelling at times other than your menstrual cycle, or if only one breast is swollen, talk to your doctor.
In cases of normal swelling, both breasts remain symmetrical. That means one wont suddenly be larger or more swollen than the other.
‘my Breast Looked A Little Pink’
In the shower one day, I noticed a pale pinkness on my breast just below my nipple area, which looked more like a mild sunburn than a rash. I knew something was off. I had my ob-gyn take a look, and he said he wasnt concerned at all because it was barely noticeable. He suggested my bra fit too snugly, and I needed to go shopping for new bras. So I did just that.
“Over time, that pink area hardened slightly and was sore to the touch. My ob-gyn again said he wasnt concerned. Eventually the pain increased behind my breast in my back. My ob-gyn said that breast cancer does not hurt, so I didnt need to worry about it. He ordered a mammogram to put my mind at ease. The mammogram and all other tests came back normal.
“Weeks went by and my lower back began to hurt. Eventually, after my GP suggested I had arthritis and I went to physical therapy. I went to see a breast specialist. He told me I had mastitis and gave me antibiotics. That didnt help. Back at the breast surgeon, he sent a picture of my breast to the top surgeon who ordered a diagnostic mammogram, which includes a sonogram and a biopsy. I was diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer in my breast, bones, and liver.
Jennifer Cordts, stay-at-home mom, Dallas
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What Should I Do If I Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Dr. Gorman will review your diagnosis carefully and recommend treatment options. Often, treatment begins with chemotherapy. Breast surgery may then be needed to remove the breast , or part of the breast and to possibly remove lymph nodes that have been affected by Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Surgery can also support cosmetic enhancements to the breasts when the cancer is removed.
Dr. Gorman will then discuss whether radiation is needed, clearly communicating its risks and added benefits.
If you are concerned that you may have cancer and not mastitis, do not hesitate to contact us. We want you to be proactive in seeking answers. Valerie Gorman, MD is a breast surgeon who specializes in personalized treatments for breast cancer. Should you have breast cancer, you are in good hands at Texas Breast Center. Dr. Gorman will walk alongside the patient, from the first mammograms, through surgery and any additional treatments, to follow visits in the future, all for your peace of mind. Her efforts to ensure you have a caring medical professional at every stage of cancer treatment allows for patients and families feel assured that she genuinely cares about their recovery. Dr. Gorman always attempts to accelerate the process with her hands-on approach and clear communication, so there is not the anxious waiting that patients often experience at other breast cancer centers
‘i Noticed What Felt Like A Frozen Pea In My Armpit’
During a routine breast self-exam, I felt a really tiny lump. It didnt hurt, but it was mobile and felt like a frozen pea. It was right inside my armpit, which seemed odd at first, but I remembered that your breast tissue actually extends into your armpit. This didnt feel consistent with the breast changes that came along with my menstrual cycle.
“I actually kept quite calm, even though in my gut, I knew what was going on. So I called my ob-gyn, who offered to take a look during my next annual exam, which was months away. After nothing changed in a week, I called the breast center at my local hospital and demanded to be seen. After imaging and biopsies, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24.
“From my experience, I hope that other women will learn that you need to monitor changes in your body, but its futile if youre afraid to speak up about them. Women need to have the confidence to speak up.
Brittany Whitman, Cleveland Education Ambassador for Bright Pink
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Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
- Regional: The cancer has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones.
How Is It Treated
It’s very important to treat this cancer as soon as possible. And more than one type of treatment may be needed. Treatment starts with anticancer drugs, called chemotherapy. These drugs help shrink the cancer.
Some tests will be done to help find which medicines will work best for you. These tests look at cancer cells from your biopsy to find out what kind of cancer you have. These tests include:
- Estrogen and progesterone receptor status. The hormones estrogen and progesterone stimulate the growth of normal breast cells, as well as some breast cancers. Hormone receptor status is an important piece of information that will help you and your doctor plan treatment.
- HER-2 receptor status. HER-2/neu is a protein that regulates the growth of some breast cancer cells. About one-third of women with breast cancer have too much of this growth-promoting protein.
Chemotherapy is usually followed by surgery . During surgery, some of the lymph nodes are removed. Afterwards, most women have radiation therapy.
More chemotherapy or hormone therapy may be used after radiation, especially if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Women who test positive for HER-2 may be treated with trastuzumab during chemotherapy and afterwards.
Talk with your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial. Many women who have inflammatory breast cancer are good candidates for clinical trials, which study new treatments for IBC and better ways to use current treatments.
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