While mammograms and self-exams are certainly an essential part of breast cancer prevention, every woman should know the signs of breast cancer that aren’t lumps, too. Now, one woman is sharing her story in the hopes of educating others to spot one rare symptom, in particular.
Two years ago, Jennifer Cordts noticed a mysterious red rash on her breast. (Go to the 1:05 mark in the video above to see Jennifer’s rare breast cancer symptom.) It looked a bit like a sunburn, but she got a mammogram just to be safe. The test came back normal. “I was told, crazy enough, that my bra was too small,” she said in an interview with Dallas-Fort Worth news station WFAA.
But the spot didn’t go away, even with new bras and prescribed antibiotics. Finally, after Googling her symptoms, the mother of two learned that she could have inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). “Everybody was asleep, and I was terrified,” Cordts told WFAA. A later biopsy confirmed that she had stage four IBC.
This type of cancer is aggressive and rare; it makes up one to five percent of all breast cancer diagnoses, according to the National Cancer Institute. But it’s difficult to catch with a mammogram or self-exam, because women with IBC don’t typically develop a lump or tumor like other breast cancer patients. Instead, “in IBC, cancer cells infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast,” Dr. Marleen Meyers, a medical oncologist at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Centre, told Health. (Meyers does not treat Jennifer.)
Besides swelling and redness, other symptoms of IBC include pitted or ridged skin, rapid breast growth, breast heaviness or tenderness, or inverted nipples. If you notice something unusual on your breast—including any of these symptoms—Meyers recommends seeing a doctor right away. The National Cancer Institute notes that women diagnosed with IBC typically do not live as long as women with other types of breast cancer, but every individual patients’ prognosis is different.
Cordts was given between three and five years to live when she was diagnosed. However, she’s making the best of the time she has left, from attending a Celine Dion concert to taking her daughter to the beach for the first time. She is also currently undergoing radiation therapy to slow the cancer’s progress.
“I really want this to educate,” Cordt said. “I really want someone to go ‘Oh my gosh I have redness in my breast. I better … push past the mammogram and ask for some more tests.'”
For women who might be at risk, it’s never too late to start making these simple changes to prevent breast cancer.
[Source: Good Housekeeping]