Inflammatory breast cancer doesn't show up as a lump and can't always be seen in a mammogram

Recognize the signs of imflammatory breast cancer

TAMPA, Fla. - Evelyn Daniels loves to read. She spent her career as a school librarian until a rare form of breast cancer forced her into retirement 13 years ago.

Her mammogram at that time was clear.

"Everything was fine. I had no reason to suspect the itching on my breast had anything to do with breast cancer," Daniels said.

But it did.  Doctors diagnosed her with inflammatory breast cancer.  Dr. Harvey Greenberg is the Director of Radiation and Oncology at Florida Hospital Tampa.

"Inflammatory breast cancer is a form of breast cancer that directly infects the skin, and so as a consequence, when women present with it, it's often swollen, reddened, enlarged and painful," Dr. Greenberg said.

There's no lump, and this type of cancer usually can't be seen on a mammogram. While it's not common, Dr. Greenberg sees maybe one or two cases a year, it is extremely aggressive. And, Evelyn says, often misdiagnosed.

"Usually what happens is the doctor will send you to a dermatologist to be checked for a rash or something, and then you'll get put on an ointment for a month.  Meanwhile it's spreading rapidly," he said.

"When I was a young lad, this breast cancer was not considered curable. In the modern era, in the last fifteen to twenty years, the chance of curing it improved to forty or fifty percent."

Evelyn's doctors diagnosed her quickly. Her treatment included oral chemotherapy first, surgery to remove the breast and radiation.

Despite the cancer coming back once, Evelyn has survived for 13 years.  What does she attribute that to?

"I pray a lot, but I also know I had good physicians who were on top of what was happening."

Again, the signs to look for include: Redness of the breast, breast swelling, pain or itching, thickening of the skin or dimpling, swelling in the lymph nodes in your armpit or above or below the collarbone.

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