“Just go get some itching cream ” stated the nurse as she headed for the door. The patient sits there, stunned, thinking “Now what?”
What you just read is a conversation relayed to me on regular basis by women trying to sound calm after placing a call to The IBC Network Foundation. Usually they have never heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer, IBC, until they find The IBC Network Foundation site in their internet searches on what to do for an “itching” breast. The reactions to the information are as varied as the women who read about IBC which is touted as one of the most fatal forms of breast cancer. Even the most informed women rarely have heard of IBC prior to their first symptoms or their own personal diagnosis. Most have never heard of a breast cancer that does not have a lump, is not commonly picked up on a mammogram, can strike women under 40, and does not have any means for early detection. If this is a woman’s first time to do an internet search while seeking relief from an itching breast, the facts on IBC can be motivating to set an examination as soon as possible. However others are often really confused, conflicted and bewildered as to what should be the next step. They may be the ones who noted some changes in only one breast and got a mammogram followed by limited or unsatisfactory results. Do they push for more tests? And if so, what tests? Or should they just give their bodies time to resolve the problem? For many years we have talked about the importance of monthly self-exams and mammograms. As important as those good breast health practices are, IBC does not present the same symptoms for detection of traditional breast cancer.
I was inspired to write this today after speaking to a woman in Atlanta, Georgia. She has not been seen by a breast specialist. Her family practice doctor referred her for a mammogram due to her complaint that only one of her breasts was swollen and itching. Normally a size D, one breast was now too large to fit in her bra, and she had a small silvered patch that itched all the time. After the mammogram, the nursed relayed the all clear sign, and she was sending the patient on her way. The doctor never laid eyes on her or her breasts in the flesh, only via a mammogram scan. My caller told me she was sitting there, stunned, and was told, “Just go get some itching cream” as the nurse was heading for the door. The patient stopped her, “What about IBC? What about Inflammatory Breast Cancer?” The nurse looked at her blankly and said, “What is that?”
Please talk to your doctors, nurses, friends and family about IBC. Yes, there are many wonderful medical caregivers who are very informed about this disease; however just as the general population is not well educated on Inflammatory Breast Cancer, many in the medical community are not as well versed as they could be. Together we can change that. We need to talk about IBC.