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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Fears

Updated:
A recent email circulating on the Internet about a frightening form of breast cancer is raising concern. It's called Inflammatory Breast Cancer or IBC.

As News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin explains, the disease is fast moving and potentially deadly, but also fairly rare.

The message is out there, get a mammogram and save your life. But there's another form of breast cancer, called IBC and a mammogram may not catch it. Dr Lanette Smith with Breast Surgery of Tulsa: "When someone presents with inflammatory breast cancer frequently they may see redness and they think they have an infection, so they go see their doctor and unfortunately some people are treated with antibiotics before it is diagnosed."

It's a fairly rare disease, only about 1 to 3% of breast cancer cases are inflammatory. Janet Cook's is one of them. "One of the things that first hits you is fear." Cook was in the shower when she noticed swelling and found a large lump. "And I'm thinking whoa, where did that come from?"

Cook was diagnosed a few months ago and learned a disease she'd never even heard of, could quickly take her life. Dr Smith says despite recent public fears, doctors do know about IBC. "I think the concern is because an e-mail is going around frightening people saying that there's a new type of breast cancer called IBC and scaring women, this is really not a new type of breast cancer, it's been around for a long time." She says what's scary for some is how it's detected.

Unlike Cook's case, IBC usually isn't a lump. Mammograms can normally pick up a cancerous lump like this one fairly easily, but with IBC, the cancer is spread out and may not be as obvious. Routine breast exams are likely to uncover the symptoms. Which are fairly obvious, rapid increase in breast size, redness, itching, and hot skin. An inverted nipple, an orange peel texture and thickening of breast tissue.

Dr. Smith: "So you will see something that is different on the breast and anytime you have that you should have your doctor go and take a look at it."

Luckily, in Cook's case, the cancer hasn't spread throughout her body. She's starting chemotherapy and feels good about the future. "I learned that I had to deal with that fear and deal with it quickly so it wouldn't overrun me, overpower me, keep me from being able to enjoy life."
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