You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer

Several weeks ago, “WhyMommy” from Toddler Planet was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare type of cancer (without a lump) that is often misdiagnosed as mastitis. WhyMommy is now using her blog to spread the word about this disease and is asking for our help in posting her story and information about inflammatory breast cancer. She was a nursing mama (she had to wean because of the cancer treatment) who noticed something “funny” about her breast, so she had it checked out. She never expected it to be cancerous.

The follow is a repost from WhyMommy’s blog. If you are a woman, or you know and love a woman, please read this information and pass it on. I feel that this information is ESPECIALLY important for all of the breastfeeding mamas out there, since this could, essentially, happen to any of us. It could save your life or the life of someone you care about. Thank you.

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

teamwhymommy

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

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11 thoughts on “You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer

  1. I hope you don’t mind… I’m going to copy and paste this right into my own blog. Thanks for sharing. I had absolutely no idea and honestly, I’ve been a little slack about performing self breast exams. So, this is a perfect reminder for me.

  2. Fantastic! You are all very welcome to post this — I am so glad that it is reaching women who I never would have met otherwise. This disease is scary, and it’s just good to know about the symptoms, just in case.

    (And for you breastfeeding mamas — I breastfed my first for 15 months; I was heartbroken to stop breastfeeding my second child because of the chemo BUT he actually was the one who noticed that something was wrong — wouldn’t nurse off that side for months — I probably owe my life to his “stubbornness.” I had no idea what he was trying to tell me — thank goodness my OB finally figured it out.)

    Thanks for listening!

  3. To the list of symptoms, I’d like to add the presence of a discharge from the nipple. This was the only symptom exhibited by a co-worker of mine (in her 50s) before she was diagnosed.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, please keep us up to date on your progress. I will keep you in my prayers.

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  7. Pingback: Breastfeeding lowers mother's/baby's risk of breast cancer | Musings of a crunchy, domestic goddess

  8. Thanks for such an informative post about cancer.I need this info because my friends mother is suffering from Stomach Cancer, information mention in this article will greatly help me in offering her some advice
    thank you

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